BERWYN – The countdown to Christmas has begun, and the city of Berwyn is gearing up to share the holiday spirit. From the Berwyn Development Corp. to the Berwyn Park District and the Pav YMCA, the three organizations are ready to spread the cheer and the warmth that Christmas entails.
Starting things off, the Berwyn Development Corp., or BDC, will close out November with Small Business Saturday as a way to pay homage to the many mom-and-pop shops across the neighborhood. With a social media campaign that is fixed on the hashtag “BuyBerwyn,” the nationally recognized day comes with a local spin.
The BDC will host a gingerbread man hunt throughout Berwyn on Nov. 30.
“We commissioned 12 2-feet-tall gingerbread men that are designed in different ways that are going to be dropped off a week at a time at different businesses,” said Erika Corona-Owens, the BDC’s division director of chamber services.
In order to play the game, Corona-Owens said people should be on the lookout for clues, which will be sprinkled on the BDC’s Instagram page under the handle “whyberwyn.” This, she said, is the perfect way to invite and encourage residents to visit the stores in their neighborhoods and perhaps discover something new.
With a decorating contest for area businesses underway, Corona-Owens said she and her team are planning to create a map showcasing the Christmas-themed window displays. This, too, she said, is another way to share what Berwyn has to offer.
“We really truly have a lot of gems in Berwyn,” she said. “From doing this work, you realize that so many of these business owners are Berwyn residents themselves. They pour so much into their business, into their craft, that the more we can highlight the stories behind these business owners, the more people will realize that, guess what, you’re walking into not somebody’s restaurant, but somebody’s kitchen, somebody’s craft. It is made with so much love for their community.”
That latter part of Corona-Owens’ message resonated with Zak Kerby, event and recreation manager at the Berwyn Park District, and Stephanie Robinson, marketing and financial director at the Pav YMCA. For them, this season is about celebrating their community, bringing people together and making more memories.
Kerby listed three major events that the park district is sponsoring for Berwyn families. The first involves the classic “Letters to Santa.” Through Dec. 6, children have the chance to write a letter to Santa and send it off at special mailboxes at several locations, including Piper School, 2435 Kenilworth Ave., and Komensky Elementary School, 2515 Cuyler Ave.
Other mailboxes can be found throughout the Berwyn Depot District or at parks such as Proksa, Smirz, Freedom and Hessler.
Every child who sends a letter receives one back with a special note from Santa, Kerby said.
Another fun event for families is the Polar Express Story Time Train on Dec. 7. The train ride, which departs from the Berwyn Train Station at 8:30 a.m. and again at 1:30 p.m., allows guests the opportunity to enjoy numerous activities, including entry to the DuPage Children’s Museum in Naperville.
“They get off the train and the kids get to do crafts,” Kerby said of what attendees can expect. “They get to take pictures with Santa. They get to eat some goodies, candies, snacks and all sorts of little sugary stuff [and] they get to enjoy the children’s museum.
“After that, they hop back on the train and we do Christmas carols and singing and dancing and all that fun stuff on the way back to Berwyn.”
Tickets cost $30 per person and are offered to residents and nonresidents. Children under the age of 1 are free.
The park district also will host its annual candy cane hunt Dec. 14 at Proksa Park. The hunt begins at 10 a.m. and is open to children under 12.
As a Berwyn native, Kerby can’t help but be overjoyed when planning or promoting these activities. He still remembers going on the Polar Express train and how much fun he had.
“I was fortunate enough to attend it as a child,” he said. “To get to do it as an adult now, it’s really rewarding to give that same experience, or hopefully a better experience, to the people that get to come on the train.”
At the Pav YMCA, Robinson shared a few more December highlights.
From 12:30 to 2 p.m. Dec. 5, residents over 60 are welcome to get free nutritious food and fresh produce from Senior Choice Market. The market takes place the first and third Thursday of every month. Guest must provide a driver’s license or state ID at pickup.
The Pav YMCA is set to host three Christmas parties. On Dec. 7, the Pav YMCA’s Christian Emphasis and Diversity Committee invites families for a two-hour event, starting at 11 a.m., stacked with crafts, food and a photo opportunity with Mrs. Claus.
On Dec. 13, two celebrations will take place, one at 10 a.m. for seniors and another at 7 p.m. for Dinner with Santa. Hearty meals, entertainment and games are just a handful of things that patrons can look forward to at these celebrations.
In addition to Berwyn, the Pav YMCA serves six surrounding communities: Cicero, Riverside, North Riverside, Stickney, Forest View and Lyons. Robinson said these events are a glimpse of what the longtime organization stands for.
Like Corona-Owens and Kerby, Robinson said this season is about unity.
“Because we’re family-oriented,” she said. “We’re here for our community.”