Skating, lights illuminate Holiday in the City 2022

3-year-old says: “That’s a big tree. I’ve never seen a tree like that.”

Springfield officially welcomed in the holiday season Friday evening with ice skating, thousands of lights, music, Santa Claus on a firetruck, smiles and dancing.

As part of the kickoff to five weeks of Holiday in the City 2022 events, several hundred people crowded the Esplanade downtown to watch as Santa was elevated on the truck’s cherry picker basket above the tree. He led a countdown, signaling the grand illumination of the 55-foot blue spruce tree to the gasps of the attendees.

Presented by the Greater Springfield Partnership, Holiday in the City will provide seasonal-related activities and events in downtown Springfield.

Several children were perched on adult shoulders to get a better view of Santa, including Kameron Mason, age 3, hoping his red coat that matched Santa’s would help him stand out, calling out to St. Nick several times when he didn’t get acknowledged.

“That’s a big tree. I’ve never seen a tree like that,” Mason said.

>> PHOTOS: See the grand illumination and Holiday in the City events

His eyes lit up as bright as the lights adorning the tree when the countdown concluded. The front of the tree was a popular spot for photos and for meeting Santa, who also doubled as deejay when not posing for pictures or hearing wish lists.

Greater Springfield Partnership leaders said the Speedway Ice Skating Rink, on City Hall Plaza, was the touch that made Holiday in the City a more complete experience last year. With an even larger rink and a long line to rent skates, it proved just as popular at the start of the 2022 season.

People of all ages tried out the ice, some stumbling, some hugging the rink sides and others gliding along with plenty of spectators on the sidelines. One boy said he fell eight times and wasn’t discouraged as he waited for a friend to get back out there.

Justin Evans had his hands full with kids Cora, 5, and Sam, 3, in tow. While admitting it took a lot to guide them and himself, he wouldn’t change a thing.

“I loved it. It was great,” Evans said, smiling.

The rink will be open for public skating 5-8 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays, and 5-9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Skating is $5 and skate rental is $2.

Humans weren’t the only ones enjoying the spirit of Holiday in the City. Several dogs, some bundled up and one in a Santa outfit, joined their owners. Springfield resident Dave Everhart had his canines Bella and Kenzie, while former Springfielder Carla Armitage brought Spudders from her home in New Vienna.

>> Man shot near Holiday in the City venues

The friends liked the chance to bring their “kids” and looked forward to getting their photos taken with Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, costumed characters roaming the event.

“This is a lot of fun. It’s the beginning of Christmas,” said Everhart. “You can see people you hadn’t seen in a while.”

While he likes the freedom of getting a DORA beverage and enjoying downtown, Everhart wasn’t ready to try the skating rink.

“Not unless they have training wheels,” he said.

Armitage likes seeing all the new shops and development downtown on her visits back here and said she wouldn’t mind moving back to Springfield upon retiring.

Ashten Houseman, Greater Springfield Partnership downtown events programmer, was pleased with the larger than expected turnout and looks forward to what’s coming up.

“Hearing the gasps and cheers during the illumination was such a great kickoff for Holiday in the City,” she said.

For a listing of Holiday in the City activities and events, go to www.facebook.com/holidayinthecityspfld/.

About the Author