38th annual Grande Illumination

A downtown horse-drawn carriage ride A downtown horse-drawn carriage ride
Santa's float in the Childrens Parade Santa's float in the Childrens Parade

A treat for kids and kids at heart

By Deborrah Adams

Santa's float in the Childrens Parade

This year’s Grande Illumination will once again kick off Dayton’s month-long Holiday Festival. Started in 1972 by Virginia Kettering, the event is a magical holiday experience for every child and harkens to the child at heart in every grown-up too.

But Grande Illumination is much more than a seasonal launching point. In times like these, more than ever, as the song from Mame reminds us, “We need a little Christmas, now.” So, there is little doubt that every child, from the youngest to the oldest would benefit from losing themselves in a few hours of the fun and fantasy, the magic and mirth, and the traditions and treasures to be discovered at this year’s holiday kick-off celebration.

On Friday, November 26, starting at 4 p.m., downtown Dayton will transform itself into a wonderland of the sights and sounds in which memories are made. There will be plenty of activities and visions to behold, stretching from RiverScape down to Third and Main Streets where everyone will converge for the lighting of the tree in Courthouse Square followed by the Children’s Parade Spectacular in Lights.

Sandy Gudorf, president of the Downtown Dayton Partnership, encourages everyone to be a part of this special time. “The Grande Illumination and Dayton Children’s Parade Spectacular in Lights is a great night for the entire family to come downtown,” said Gudorf. “It is a magical night and is guaranteed to put you in the holiday spirit.”

Grande Illumination is a free event provided by the Downtown Dayton Partnership and dozens of community partners and sponsors. Throughout the evening, there will free activities, amusements, music and holiday displays to enjoy. The Junior League of Dayton will again host its Kid’s Holiday Hunt from 4-7 p.m. beginning at the Junior League’s tent in Courthouse Square. There will be carnival rides for kids at the Street Fair on Third Street, and inside the Old Court House, the Gingerbread Homes for the Holidays contest entries and the winners can be seen.

There will also be plenty of live holiday music with Culture Works’ “Sounds of the Season” holiday concert at Fifth Third Center on Main Street from 5:30-7:45 p.m. On the Courthouse Square Main Stage, the entertainment starts at 4 p.m. with a line-up that includes Dan Rivers, Eleventh Hour, Sweet Adelines, Dancing Divas, Schuster Center Children’s Choir and the Schuster Center Celebration Choir.

The high point of the evening, for which everyone will be waiting, will be the tree lighting ceremony at 7:45 p.m. in the Courthouse Square Plaza. According to Krystal Luketic with the Downtown Dayton Partnership, this year’s tree is “approximately 40 feet tall. It is a blue spruce donated by Mr. and Mrs. Fleenor of Dayton, lit with over 120,000 colorful lights.”

A downtown horse-drawn carriage ride

Immediately following the tree lighting will be the start of the Dayton Children’s Parade Spectacular in Lights which will feature over a 100,000 lights illuminating local marching bands and drill teams, floats and all kinds of horses. A special treat for the children will be an appearance by The Cat in the Hat courtesy of Dayton’s Public Television station WPTD Think TV 16.

Throughout the day and evening, there will be a few low-cost activities. The always popular horse-drawn wagon rides through the city will be $1 per person and early arrival is suggested due to long lines for rides in years past.

Five River’s MetroParks Ice Rink in RiverScape MetroPark will open Friday, November 26, for the season with holiday music and hourly giveaways. The weekend $5 admission fee will include skate rental.

The Tikes Shop, a kid’s-priced gift shop sponsored and managed by the Miami Valley Youth Career Services in Wintergarden at Schuster Center, will open for special Grande Illumination shopping hours.

Friday will also be opening day for many of the Dayton Holiday Festival traditions such as the former Rike’s Wonderland Windows in the Schuster Center’s Wintergarden at Second and Ludlow Streets. The Holiday Village features free crafts, games and lots of other surprises for kids.

The newly refurbished Virginia Kettering Holiday Train displays in the lobby of the Kettering Tower and will be open for special hours during Grande Illumination where children can also “Dial-an-Elf” for a live chat about their holiday wish list.

Grande Illumination and Children’s Parade is a special magical night but it is just the start of a season full of activities and events downtown. For the full schedule of holiday festivities, log on to the Downtown Dayton Partnership’s website at www.downtowndayton.org and click on Dayton Holiday Festival for the full list and calendar or to download a printable brochure.

Contact DCP freelance writer Deborrah Adams at contactus@daytoncitypaper.com

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