Champaign County celebrates holidays with two events

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

The holidays will kick into full gear with a weekend of seasonal events in neighboring Champaign County cities that will emphasize safety and spirit.

Downtown holiday festivities in Urbana will be tonight and Christmas in the Village in West Liberty will be tonight and Saturday. Both events are free.

Event organizers worked with the county health department to establish protocols to help visitors stay safe. Attendees are required to observe health guidelines including using social distancing measures and wearing masks even when outside due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Events will have an emphasis on shopping local, supporting area businesses and enjoying the season.

Urbana’s festivities, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., are in place of the annual Holiday Horse Parade, which was canceled due to the pandemic. It will have a Black Friday feel with a variety of food trucks and restaurants offering various dishes and shopping with downtown merchants and some vendors set up outside.

Vicki Deere-Bunnell of the Monument Square District Board, which sponsors the festivities, said the event should be treated as a chance to enjoy the town in a different way than the horse parade.

“It’s more of a stroll through our town, a chance to get something to eat and keep the crowd down,” she said. “It’s to give people a little bit of spirit.”

There will also be music and other entertainment, free carriage/trolley rides 4-7 p.m., and a chance to vote on the favorite window decorations downtown merchants have created.

Although there’s not an official city tree in Legacy Park this year, there will be a Christmas tree wonderland where several trees will get lit at 5:30, but no official ceremony. Santa Claus will be in his workshop on the second floor at Oxner’s General Store, where children can wave at him and leave their wish lists in a special mailbox in front of the store.

While the challenges of 2020 have been plentiful, West Liberty has seen some positives with several new businesses opened and this is the perfect time to discover them with the festival theme “Thankful, Healthy, Hopeful.”

“It’s been a tough row to hoe at times,” said Mitch Lingrell of the West Liberty Business Association, the organization that sponsors the festival. “This is just to have fun and enjoy a preview of Christmas.”

Merchants will open at 10 a.m. for shoppers. At 6:30 p.m., the Christmas in the Village preview parade will begin, led by grand marshal Nancy Spragen, the retiring town librarian.

The parade will travel from the Lions Club Park to the firehouse where Santa will be waiting and the holiday tree will be lit.

Children cannot sit on Santa’s lap due to health rules, but pictures can be taken near him and goodie bags will be given to children. Lingrell reminds attendees to observe social distancing rules throughout the event.

Saturday’s activities begin at 10 a.m. with Small Business Saturday where goodie bags will be handed out and a passport shopping event where participants could earn prizes.

For more information about these events, visit the Champaign County website.

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