Annual Woodstock Lighting of Square makes season bright

By Karie Angell Luc For Chronicle Media

Holiday caroling in the gazebo at Park-in-the-Square. (Photo by Karie Angell Luc/for Chronicle Media)

An estimated 5,000 people turned out on Nov. 23 in downtown Woodstock for Lighting of the Square, an annual holiday event.

With the flip of an oversized switch, tens of thousands of multi-colored lights were illuminated from the gazebo in Park-in-the-Square.

“Woodstock has amazing charm for the holidays,” said Danielle Gulli, executive director of the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Misty weather accompanied the lighting portion with temperatures at 47 degrees.

The setting included melting snow berms, wet cobblestone streets and Christmas trees tied on top of parked cars.

Benjamin Engwall, 7, a first-grader from Marengo, is about to vote for a favorite gingerbread house. (Photo by Karie Angell Luc/for Chronicle Media)

“It sort of sets you back in time, to a time that was simpler and quieter and just more peaceful where the important things were what really came to life and what mattered, family, friends and giving,” Gulli said.

Santa Claus and city mascot Woodstock Willie, the groundhog made famous in part by the 1993 film “Groundhog Day,” were among celebrities launching the festivities after twilight.

“This restaurant, La Placita, was in the ‘Groundhog Day’ movie, so a lot of people come to see, to walk around and get the best food in town,” said restaurateur Edgardo Urbina of Gilberts, owner of Taqueria La Placita.

The restaurant, located on Cass Street across from Park-in-the-Square, was a “Groundhog Day” set location for the movie’s “Tip Top Cafe.”

People are gathering here for warm beverages and doughnuts. Dawn Iversen (in background, right) of Woodstock, an event sponsor with Woodstock Heating & Cooling, distributes cups of comfort. (Photo by Karie Angell Luc/for Chronicle Media)

“Groundhog Day” was directed by the late Harold Ramis and starred Bill Murray. A plaque on the taqueria doorway identifies the early 1990s filming status.

“It’s just a lot of history,” Urbina said, about Woodstock.

Holiday carolers, children’s activities, charitable opportunities plus treats and giveaways added to vintage home for the holidays charm.

“This is fantastic, what a great community we live in,” said Dawn Iversen of Woodstock, an event sponsor with Woodstock Heating & Cooling. “How wonderful is this that everybody comes together for the Lighting of the Square.”

Through the storefronts around the square, window shoppers could see that many shops had significant Black Friday customer traffic.

The lights have just been illuminated in the Park-in-the-Square. (Photo by Karie Angell Luc/for Chronicle Media)

“It’s been awesome already,” said Karen Dvorak, co-owner of A New Interiors Anew, a home goods store at 134 Cass St.

The Opera House Christmas Tree Walk featured dozens of trees decorated by area organizations.

People could also stroll through the Gingerbread House Walk at the Old Courthouse and vote for a favorite edible edifice.

“I love Woodstock, I was raised here from ’72 until I graduated from high school in ’80 and then I left for 30 years,” said Julie Miller of Woodstock, president of Friends of the Old Courthouse.

“And when I was out west, I was like, ‘I need to go somewhere else, why not go home?’ So I came back,” Miller said, with a smile.

City mascot Woodstock Willie (left), the groundhog made famous, in part, by the 1993 film “Groundhog Day” is with Santa Claus in the gazebo at Park-in-the-Square. (Photo by Karie Angell Luc/for Chronicle Media)

Outside of the Old Courthouse, people gathered around an outdoor fireplace. Food trucks were parked near the square.

“It just looks like a storybook when they turn on the lights, it’s neat,” said Bill Doran of Wonder Lake, also with Pixie Dawgs (of Woodstock) food truck.

“It’s all about community in this town,” said Colleen O’Neill, who also staffed the hot dog food truck.

“Everybody knows everybody.”

Before Santa Claus made an entrance, kiddies shared holiday wishes.

“I want a new Barbie doll, a mermaid,” said Destiny Walker, 9, a third-grader from Marengo.

Savanna Jenkins, 7, a first-grader from McHenry, said she wants, “a scooter, pink!”

People are offered glow sticks, doughnuts and warm beverages. (Photo by Karie Angell Luc/for Chronicle Media)

Holiday wishes included family snapshots and keepsake moments.

Their first time at Lighting of the Square, Amanda Grove attended with her child Abby Grove, 12, a seventh-grader from Macomb.

“We’re building memories,” Abby’s mother said.