Featuring shopping opportunities, children’s activities and festive holiday decorations, Gillespie’s Holiday Sparkle will return to the downtown business district on Saturday, Dec. 17, according to members of the Holiday Sparkle Committee. Once an annual tradition under the sponsorship of the now disbanded Coal Country Chamber of Commerce, the last Holiday Sparkle was held in 2018.
The Holiday Sparkle will get off to an early start at 6 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 27 with the official lighting of the community Christmas tree in the open lot next to United Community Bank at the intersection of Pine and Macoupin Streets. The 15-foot live tree will sport upward of 1,000 colorful LED lights along with hand-made Christmas ornaments decorated by BenGil Elementary School students.
“We’ve heard from many area residents and businesses who missed the Holiday Sparkle the last few years,” said Tammy Beechler of Hicks Maytag and a member of the Holiday Sparkle Committee. “Our committee members wholeheartedly agree Gillespie should have an annual holiday event not only to boost downtown businesses but also provide a memorable Christmas experience for children and adults.”
The reimagined Holiday Sparkle will be a day-long event starting with the arrival of Santa Clause at 9 a.m. at the gazebo located in Pomatto Memorial Park adjacent to the Gillespie Civic Center and concluding with a 5 p.m. lighted holiday parade on Macoupin Street. In the event of inclement weather, Santa will visit with children and hear Christmas wishes in the Civic Center instead of the gazebo.
The Civic Center also will be the location for free children’s crafts from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and face painting from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Other children’s activities will include a petting zoo from 9 a.m. to noon on the vacant lot next to Lumpy’s Bar and Grill, 208 S. Macoupin St., and a holiday story time at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. at the Gillespie Public Library.
Drawing on the traditions of European Christmas Markets, the Holiday Sparkle will feature a number of crafters and food vendors offering their wares from outdoor booths. Crafters will offer one-of-kind, hand-made gift items along Macoupin Street as well as food vendors offering sandwiches and holiday treats, including kettle korn.
There is no fee for non-profit organizations sponsoring food booths. For-profit enterprises will be required to purchase a $25 one-day permit from the city. Crafters or food vendors may visit www.christmasingillespie.com online or call Beechler at 217-839-3167 to register or get more information.
“In addition to our vendors, we hope Holiday Sparkle visitors will take time to visit our local retailers and eateries to explore what Gillespie businesses have to offer not only at Christmas but throughout the year,” Beechler said.
A majority of downtown businesses already have agreed to decorate their stores for the holiday and many have agreed to decorate concrete planters located on the sidewalk along Macoupin Street.
Event visitors may register at numerous locations for a chance to win one of up to 50 holiday hams donated by Gillespie Masonic Lodge 214 and Black Diamond Days. Registration sites will be marked by flyers in their windows.
Costumed Christmas characters will roam the length of the festival venue during the day. Visitors can make s’mores or get warmth from 1 to 5 p.m. near fire pits located near the community Christmas tree near at the intersection of Pine and Macoupin Streets where live music will be available during the same time period. Grow Gillespie’s Colonial Giving Garden will be the starting point for a 5K Santa Stampede at 3 p.m. Persons wishing to participate in the Santa Stampede can register online at christmasingillespie.com.
While this year’s edition of the Holiday Sparkle will include many familiar features from past events, the committee also has planned a few new surprises including a lighted Cruisin’ Into Christmas parade and a Great Griswold Holiday home decorating contest.
Advance registration for parade units is $5 per vehicle or walking group, $10 on the day of the parade, and no charge for civic or school groups. Registration can be accomplished online or in person at Hicks Maytag, 118 S. Macoupin St. Checks should be made payable to Grow Gillespie.
All participating vehicles must be decorated with lights and must be insured. Golf carts, ATVs or side-by-sides must be registered with the city. Line-up for the parade is at 4 p.m. on Macoupin Street near Moto Mart, and the parade will step off at 5 p.m.
Residents who wish to participate in the Great Griswold lighting contest also may register online or in person at Hicks Maytag. Images of participating homes will be posted on the Holiday Sparkle Facebook page and visitors to the page can vote for their favorites through Friday, Dec. 16. The first-place winner will receive $50, plus a “2022 Great Griswold Light Competition” first-place winner yard sign; second place will receive $25, plus a runner-up yard sign.
“We are extremely proud of the work our committee has done to organize an outstanding event in a short period of time,” Jennifer Parker, a teacher at Ben-Gil Elementary School and Holiday Sparkle Committee member, said. “The Holiday Sparkle promises to have something for everyone and be a memorable holiday event we can continue to build upon in the coming years. We are especially grateful to Grow Gillespie for agreeing to sponsor the event for insurance purposes this year.”
“Christmas is for kids,” said Parker. “Our Christmas tree is a great way to involve local children and get them involved in supporting community events. I’m sure dozens of our students will want to visit the tree during the Christmas season and point out the ornaments they made to friends and relatives.”
For more information about the Holiday Sparkle, be sure to visit christmasingillespie.com or find the Gillespie Holiday Sparkle on Facebook. Further information also is available by calling 217-839-3167 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.