Holiday events in Bloomington-Normal carry ‘shop local’ theme

By Dave Fidlen for Chronicle Media
The traditional Bloomington-Normal Jaycees’ holiday parade and Christmas at the Courthouse event will take place on the afternoon of Saturday, Dec. 3. (Photo courtesy of Bloomington-Normal Jaycees

The traditional Bloomington-Normal Jaycees’ holiday parade and Christmas at the Courthouse event will take place on the afternoon of Saturday, Dec. 3. (Photo courtesy of Bloomington-Normal Jaycees

As the holiday season gets into full swing in the weeks ahead, numerous civic organizations within the Bloomington-Normal area will attempt to spread yuletide merriment with a variety of festive events.

Some of the events — including an old-fashioned visit from Santa in Uptown Normal and an equally time-honored peer into holiday vignettes via window displays in Downtown Bloomington — tie quaintly into the “shop local” mantra that is heavily marketed throughout the Twin City.

Although her organization trumpets shopping local during the holidays, Tricia Stiller, executive director of the Downtown Bloomington Association, said the concept is actually promoted throughout the year.

If each Bloomington consumer spent $100 more at local stores, Stiller said the gesture would pump $3 million back into the local economy. The philosophical, cause-oriented marketing is designed to offer a counterpoint to shopping online or within big box mega retailers this holiday season.

“All of our efforts, supported by the city of Bloomington, are in keeping with the recommendations of the award-winning comprehensive plan for our city’s growth and development,” Stiller said. “Downtown is an important anchor in building a regional tourism program.”

Although Bloomington and Normal’s historic downtown areas are designed to draw in residents, organizers also point to the tourist opportunities that abound by holiday special events in the communities’ main streets.

“It’s a chance for people to come in and see what the shops have to offer,” Brie Lohr, communications and marketing coordinator with the Bloomington-Normal Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said of the festive events.

This weekend, Downtown Bloomington is rolling out all of the stops as part of the shopping district’s art-themed First Fridays program. Local merchants will feature live window vignettes from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2 as part of the event, dubbed Once Upon a Holiday.

The weekend also includes other draws into the downtown area on Saturday, Dec. 3, including a tree lighting within Wither’s Park, 204 E. Washington St., and the Bloomington-Normal Jaycees’ holiday parade and Christmas at the Courthouse event.

Organizers within Uptown Normal are promising similar holiday wonderment throughout December. Free carriage rides are being offered throughout the month in and near Uptown Circle on a reservation basis.

Normal’s main shopping community is also offering visits from the jolly bearded man in the big red suit. Santa’s Station is returning weekends throughout December, from 1 to 5 p.m., beginning Saturday, Dec. 3, through Saturday, Dec. 24.

Depending upon the specific shop, businesses in Downtown Bloomington and Uptown Normal are offering special sales and promotions throughout the month to help bring in customers.

While work on such commercial corridors as Downtown Bloomington’s shopping district are an important part of looking to the future, Stiller said the efforts also point to the past.

Speaking to events such as Once Upon a Holiday, Stiller said the corridor, which has attained a Main Street Community certification, “has utilized the National Preservation’s revitalization guidelines to protect and enhance the history of our city center since 2005.”

“We utilize the time and talents of four working committees to create a sense of place that welcomes guests and enhances the livability for downtown residents and business owners,” Stiller said.


Other upcoming holiday-themed events


Downtown Bloomington and Uptown Normal are not the only sites for festive events this holiday season. Below is a sampling of some of the other offerings. Call the venue for pricing and other additional information.


  • Christmas concert; 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, at Miller Park Pavilion, 1020 S. Morris Ave., Bloomington
  • Mannheim Steamroller Christmas; 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, at U.S. Cellular Coliseum, 101 S. Madison St., Bloomington
  • Skate with Santa; 12:40 to 1:55 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, at Pepsi Ice Center, 201 S. Roosevelt Ave., Bloomington
  • Ugliest Sweater Run; 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, at Miller Park Pavilion
  • Victorian Christmas Splendor Tea; 1 to 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4, at Vrooman Mansion Bed and Breakfast, 701 E. Taylor St., Bloomington
  • Illinois Wesleyan’s annual Christmas choral concert; 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4, at Holy Trinity Church, 704 N. Main St., Bloomington
  • Victorian Christmas Splendor Gaslight Tea; 4 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4, at Vrooman Mansion Bed and Breakfast
  • Breakfast with Santa; 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, at Miller Park Zoo, 1020 S. Morris Ave., Bloomington
  • Christmas at the Mansions Tour; 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, at David Davis Mansion, 1000 Monroe Drive, Bloomington
  • Can Reindeer Fly?; 2 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11, at Miller Park Zoo
  • Tour de Lights: A Holiday Lights Tour; 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14, at Lincoln Leisure Center, 1206 S. Lee St., Bloomington
  • Christmas Tour of the Manor; 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15, at Ewing Manor, 48 Sunset Road, Bloomington
  • Here Comes Santa Claus; 6 to 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 19, at Normal Public Library, 206 W. College Ave., Normal


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