By Anthony Caciopo
Mother Nature played a trick with the calendar this year, fast-forwarding from summer almost directly into winter. But with the cold weather comes thoughts of the holiday season and Palos Heights has a big slate of activities in store, starting next week.
Holidays in the Heights returns again for 2019, following a breakthrough year last winter which saw a huge increase in popularity of the two-day Kris Kringle Market.
The Kris Kringle Market includes specialty vendors, a holiday tree, visit by Santa, live music, food and other attractions inside and outside large, heated tents Dec. 6 and 7 in the Municipal Parking Lot, 12217 S. Harlem Ave. And plans have been made for the event to be even bigger this year.
“When we did the first Holiday in the Heights we didn’t have a Kris Kringle Market,” said Bob Grossart of the planning committee.
“We were walking past Mid Villa Pizza and people at the tables outside said ‘You know what you need? A Kris Kringle Market.’
“The next year (2017) we did that,” Grossart said. “We had 15 vendor participants and a little over 200 people showed up—plus, it was 60 degrees.
“For last year’s (2018) planning we said ‘We did 216 people in 2017, maybe we can do 1,000 or 1,500.’ But over 3,200 people showed up. For 2019 we expect an even bigger crowd.”
At a recent meeting, planning committee members ticked off more than a dozen communities from which the Kris Kringle Market drew last year. Ken Busse, a committee member who is also the director of Economic and Community Development for the City of Palos Heights, reminded everyone of the furthest-traveled visitor, a special guest indeed.
“We did get someone from a very far distance—the North Pole,” he said to laughs that went around the room as the committee members recalled a visit by Santa.
Although the Kris Kringle Market might be the top draw of Palos Heights’ holiday season in terms of numbers, it is one spoke in the wheel of a long list of activities. In date order, here are the many attractions that make up the Holidays in the Heights for 2019.
Tree Decorating Contest Nov. 23-29 at the Art Garden, 123rd Street and 72nd Court. Registration has already closed for this event, but the handiwork of local individuals, families and organizations will be on display through Dec. 31. Winners will be announced at the Dec. 3 City Council meeting.
Annual Holiday Tree Lighting from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 29 at Lake Katherine Nature Center, 7402 Lake Katherine Dr., presented by the Palos Area Chamber of Commerce.
According to the Stacy Schuble, the chamber’s director, the event will include the tree lighting by Mayor Bob Straz, a performance by the Shepard High School Choir, photos with Santa, live reindeer, a Santa’s Mailbox letter-writing activity for children, as well as cookies, hot chocolate and more.
“The tree lighting is the kickoff, the first event of Holidays in the Heights,” explained Barb Bergamo, president of the chamber. “If the weather is decent we’ll probably have 500-600 people there.”
Small Business Saturday, Nov. 30 throughout town. Palos Heights residents are urged to “shop local” at participating area merchants on Small Business Saturday and throughout the holiday season. Ask about special promotions.
Kris Kringle Market kicks off with welcoming ceremonies and a tree lighting at 4:45 p.m. Dec. 6 in the Municipal Parking Lot, 12217 S. Harlem Ave. The market will run until 9 p.m. that day. The hours for the Dec. 7 market will be 1 to 7 p.m.
In addition to the details mentioned about the market earlier in this story, it will feature an opening performance by the Shepard High School Choir and remarks by Mayor Straz.
At least 70 vendors will be on hand, “with a little bit more variety this year, more unique vendors, more handmade pieces, not what you’d see at your typical craft fair,” said Schuble. “We have a lot of returning vendors from last year, and quite a few new ones.”
New for this year will be a trolley that will shuttle visitors from remote parking areas to the municipal lot. The trolley stops have not yet been solidified and visitors are advised to follow the City of Palos Heights Facebook page for trolley and other information.
Food service will be available from Highlander House, Capri Ristorante, Aurelio’s, Lucky Burrito and Smilin’ Clyde’s Hot Dogs. Management of Noral Jewelers is donating spaces in the store’s parking lot to accommodate this year’s larger footprint of the Kris Kringle Market.
Increased outdoor restroom facilities have also been included for 2019.
Christmastime in Palos, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 7 at the Palos Heights Public Library, 12501 S. 71st. Ave. Sponsored by the Friends of the Palos Heights Library and First Midwest Bank, the event will feature music and singalongs, special programs for children and adults, an auction and book sale along with snacks and refreshments provided by local businesses.
Christmastide Concert, Dec. 7 at the Ozinga Chapel of Trinity Christian College, 6601 W. College Dr. Doors open at 3:30 p.m. Christmastide will feature vocal performances by the Concert Choir, Gospel Choir, and Honors Ensemble. Trinity’s Wind Ensemble and Brass Quintet will also take part in the celebration. Tickets and more information may be obtained by calling (708) 293-4537.
Palos Heights Woman’s Club Breakfast, Boutique and House Walk, beginning at 9 a.m. Dec. 14 at Palos Country Club, 13100 Southwest Hwy. in Orland Park. Registration opens at 8 a.m.
“The Annual Christmas Walk has been the main Ways & Means project for the Palos Heights Woman’s Club for over 50 years,” said the club’s 2nd Vice President Eileen Lunter.
“The event has always been perfect to inspire the guests with ideas for holiday decorating with an opportunity to view four or five local homes. Originally, guests had a lunch featuring the club’s ‘three-can casserole’ but for several years the event has started with a full breakfast at the Palos Country Club,” she said.
Last year’s event was described in The Regional as the best ever for the club, with 240 tickets sold.
The fundraiser will also feature the club’s very popular cookie sale. More than 100 pounds of cookies of many varieties, baked by many of the club members, virtually flew off the counter at the breakfast/boutique last year. The cookie sale will again be offered this year.
Tickets to the event are available from the Doughs Guys Bakery, 12248 S. Harlem Ave. in Palos Heights and Mona Lisa Boutique, 14215 S. LaGrange Rd., Unit 116 in Orland Park.
Waddles Winter Wonderland, 10 a.m. to noon Dec. 14 at the Palos Heights Parks and Recreation Center, 6601 W. 127th St. The children’s activity will include holiday fun with Waddles the Penguin, Santa Claus and the department’s recreation team. Crafts, cookies and entertainment will also be featured.
Winter Farmers Market, 8 a.m. to noon Dec. 21 at the Rec Center.
Noon Year’s Eve, 10 a.m. to noon, Dec. 31, at the Rec Center, 6601 W. 127th St. The gym will be transformed into a mini-Times Square to ring in the new year….but just a bit early for children. Noon Year’s Eve will include a variety of games and crafts for kids 10 years of age and under. The celebration will be capped off with a drop of more than 2,000 balloons from high above the gym floor. More information about Noon Year’s Eve, the Winter Farmers Market and Waddles Winter Wonderland may be obtained by calling the Parks and Recreation Department at (708) 361-1807.
According to Holiday in the Heights planners, the local business community has contributed in a big way.
“We have 35 businesses that are donating almost $10,000,” said Grossart. “Support the local businesses because most of them are small and they struggle for their dollars, yet they’re so generous to support an event like this. We couldn’t put it on without the sponsorships.”
“We started planning at the very beginning of the year,” said Bergamo. “Believe it or not, it takes months.”
“This is a true collective work,” said Ald. Jeff Key of Ward 1. “The whole idea of having Holidays in the Heights started out in a very small way and over the last 5-6 years it has grown. When the Business and Economic Advisory Committee kind of took it over and wanted to expand on it, it became a true collective work with the mayor and the city being very supportive.
“We cannot do this without public works department, without the police department, without volunteers from the Business Economic Advisory Committee, without other volunteers in the city,” said Key.
Volunteers are still needed!
Anyone interested in volunteering is invited to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. A variety of duties and time slots are available.