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Crowd estimated at 6,000-plus for Naperville’s Parade of Lights

Thousands of people descended on downtown Naperville with festive attire — and spirits — Friday night for the annual Holiday Parade of Lights hosted by the Rotary Club of Naperville.

“We love that you’re here spreading cheer in downtown Naperville,” Danielle Tufano, executive director of the Downtown Naperville Alliance, told the crowd, noting it was about 30 degrees warmer this year than when the 2021 parade was held. “Be ready for some magic to unfold here.”

Families gathered with kids and dogs in tow — some adorned in ugly Christmas sweaters, light-up necklaces, and Santa and Christmas tree hats — to catch a little of that holiday spirit as they watched the holiday procession beneath the lights and decorations filling the downtown district.

An estimated crowd of 6,000 to 7,000 attended, organizers said.

The parade’s grand marshals were Naperville Police Chief Jason Arres and Fire Chief Mark Puknaitis, and one of the night’s biggest ovations went to Chicago Blackhawks mascot Tommy Hawk, who road on the team’s float.

Santa and Mrs. Claus made an appearance, naturally, and visited with kids afterward at the downtown Nichols Library.

“We know it’s a tradition,” Tufano said. “It’s a fun way to bundle up and kick off the holiday season. But there’s a purpose behind this.”

The annual event raises funds for local nonprofits supported by the Rotary Club, including groups that provide community and educational programs for youth; food, housing and employment assistance; and mental health awareness. Lead sponsor IntentGen Financial Partners presented a $6,500 check to the organizers.

Among the sights to be seen Friday night was a Christmas tree-costumed participant in the annual Holiday Parade of Lights in downtown Naperville.

The parade brought in $37,000, which Rotary Club will match for a total of $74,000 going to the community.

“Thank you so much to the Rotary organization for organizing an event that not only lights up Naperville, but supports a lot of organizations that are doing great work in the community,” said Corey Schmidt, IntentGen’s founding partner and a wealth advisor.

Some local nonprofits took part in the parade, including Naperville Responds for Veterans, the Indian Guides and Princesses youth organization, and Little Friends, which provides support for adults and children with autism and other developmental disabilities.

“Merry Christmas, everybody!” shouted Steve Chirico, who’s completing his final year as mayor of Naperville.

Among the performers were Road Show, a group of local junior-high show choir singers; the Chorus of DuPage barbershop singers; Naperville Central High School a cappella group Enchords; and Ava Morse, a Naperville singer and voice actor who recently appeared in the Pixar animated film “Turning Red.”

People line the downtown Naperville parade route Friday night to wait for start of the Holiday Parade of Lights, organized by the Rotary Club of Naperville.

They did renditions of such holiday classics as “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “Jingle Bells,” “All I Want for Christmas is You” and “White Christmas.”

“There were just a lot of people super excited to put people in the holiday spirit,” Naperville Rotary Club President Kim White said of the big turnout.

“The weather could not have been more perfect. The night went off without a hitch, and we’re grateful to our police department and fire department teams and park district folks who just ensured a safe, fun, festive environment for everybody who attended.”

Giles Bruce is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.

Ava Drendel, 4, of Naperville, waits for candy to be thrown her way Friday during the Holiday Parade of Lights in downtown Naperville.

Naperville Magazine's float was packed Friday night, one of dozens of entries that made up Naperville's annual Holiday Parade of Lights.

Carolers from Marmion Academy in Aurora perform Friday night as part of the 2022 Holiday Parade of Lights in downtown Naperville.

Louie Degiulio, 4, of Naperville, holds an illuminated stick while enjoying Friday night's Holiday Parade of Lights in downtown Naperville.

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