Festival of Lights a Contender in The Great Christmas Light Fight

Update: The East Peoria Festival of Lights in Illinois is the CHAMPION of the Heavyweights Division of ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight!  Congrats!

The East Peoria Festival of Lights will be in the national spotlight this year with the festival being a 2020 contender for Season 8 of The Great Christmas Light Fight on ABC TV.  The Festival of Lights, celebrating its 36th year, is in a new community displays division on the national show, competing against three other American cities for the coveted lighted trophy. The identity of those other cities will not be known until the show airs later this year, with the broadcast date to be announced.

This year’s East Peoria Festival of Lights starts with the Parade of Lights and continues with the Thanksgiving opening of the Folepi’s Winter Wonderland drive-through display. Many aspects of the festival are named for Folepi, the festival’s toy soldier mascot and an acronym for “Festival Of Lights East Peoria Illinois.”

The Parade of Lights will begin at 5:45 pm on Saturday, Nov. 21 and spectators will see approximately 30 lighted floats gliding along the parade route. Spectators can spread out and socially distance along the approximately two-mile route which starts at East Washington Street and Dolans Lane, and continues along East Washington Street, turning left at the intersection with Camp Street. It then turns right from Washington onto Taylor Street, continues along Taylor and ends at Taylor Street and Springfield Road. A map of the parade route is available at www.folepi.org.  In addition, central Illinoisans can watch the parade from the comfort of home via livestream on WMBD TV-31’s website, CIProud.com, and the station’s Facebook page.

In the days following the parade, the floats will be moved to a city park which will become Folepi’s Winter Wonderland.  Folepi’s Winter Wonderland drive-through display opens at 5 pm on Thanksgiving and will remain open through January 3, including all holidays.  Visitors can view the lights in the comfort of their vehicles, the ultimate in social distancing. Featured are the parade floats and lighted displays grouped in themed areas such as the Western Town, Circus Land, Space Travel and the Prehistoric Area. Hours are 5 -9 pm Sundays through Thursdays and 5 – 11 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Admission is $10 for regular vehicles (cars, trucks and vans), $30 for a small bus (party, shuttle, mini and school), and $150 for full-size charter buses.

When possible, Festival officials encourage visitors to come to the display Sunday through Thursday, as wait times those nights are significantly less than on Friday and particularly Saturday. Traffic on Friday and Saturday is much higher, so there will be a long line to get in the display on those nights. Those who can come to the display only on Friday or Saturday should keep in mind there will be a long entrance line and should make appropriate plans for waiting to enter.

Those who go to Folepi’s Winter Wonderland on Monday nights can get a sweet treat during Chick-fil-A Mondays at the Festival of Lights. Every vehicle through the drive-through display on Mondays from November 30 through December 28 will receive a free dessert at Chick-fil-A East Peoria. Two free dessert offers per vehicle will be available while supplies last. Visit folepi.org for more details.

A popular place for taking selfies or photos of the kids is Folepi’s Enchanted Forest (located at 401 W. Washington St., in East Peoria’s Levee District shopping area). Folepi’s Enchanted Forest features the festival’s 35-foot tall Christmas tree, lighted trees and displays, and the Terry the Tractor parade float. The display will open for the season during a tree-lighting event, featuring carols by the Caterpillar Employees Mixed Chorus, from 5:45 pm to 6:15 pm on Saturday, December 5.

Fondulac District Library will sponsor Holiday Story Walks in the Reading Garden at the forest’s entrance. The story walks consist of colorful printed storybook panels illuminated with spotlights and placed in the Reading Garden. The schedule includes The Polar Express on December 4 – 10, The Snow Globe Family on December 11 – 17 and The Night Before Christmas on December 18 – 27.  There will be no indoor activities at the forest or Santa visits due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The Narrated Nativity, located at the intersection of Taylor Street and Springfield Road, has a three-dimensional appearance at night and details the “reason for the season”. Those tuning to radio station 1610 AM will hear a 2-minute narration. Admission is free. Unlike the rest of the festival displays, the Narrated Nativity is funded by private donations through the Nativity Display Association.

The lights are the star of the show, but there are many other events that comprise the Festival of Lights.

The ninth annual ornament hunt, Find Folepi, will begin with the release of the first clue on Wednesday, November 25.   Clues will be posted each Wednesday on www.folepi.org, on Facebook at East Peoria Festival of Lights, on Instagram at folepi_ep_festival_of_lights and in the Times-News Reporter newspaper. The winner will receive a package of prizes from local businesses, and they can keep the ornament. The hunt is open to everyone.

The 30th annual FOLEPI River Trail Classic competitive run and non-competitive walk will take place on Nov. 28 on the River Trail of Illinois beginning at 8:30 am (walk) and 9 am (4-mile run)  featuring a staggered start and some other changes to meet social distancing requirements. Visit www.folepi.org for registration information and other details.

Set in East Peoria’s Historic Four Corners District and adjacent areas, Folepi’s Gifts Galore Shop and Stroll runs from Noon – 3 pm on Saturday, Dec. 5 featuring locally owned store shopping and free balloon art by The Unique Twist. Many of the participating businesses will also offer door prize drawings.  Spend $25 or more at the participating businesses to receive a free pass to the Folepi’s Winter Wonderland drive-through display.

The Get Lit New Year’s Eve Celebration is a great chance to see the floats and displays up close when you can run, walk or ride the lighted trolley float through Folepi’s Winter Wonderland. The 20th annual Get Lit will take place beginning at 9 pm – Midnight on New Year’s Eve and is a way for families to celebrate the new year while enjoying treats by the fire pits and other fun activities. Visit www.folepi.org for registration information and other details.

For more information about the Festival of Lights, visit www.folepi.org, East Peoria Festival of Lights on Facebook, folepi_ep_festival_of_lights on Instagram, Festival of Lights – East Peoria on Twitter, www.epcc.org or call toll-free 1-855-833-5327.

Festival of Trees Going Virtual for 2020

Crittenton Centers Annual Festival of Trees has been converted into a virtual event this year due to COVID restrictions, but will include many of the elements of the event that have made it so popular for the past 11 years.  Starting Thursday, November 12th, the event will showcase over 80 holiday items in windows around Peoria for your viewing and bidding pleasure. All items will be up for silent auction which will run Thursday, November 19 through Sunday, November 22 virtually at www.CCFOT2020.givesmart.com

All proceeds go back to help children and families in our community.  No credit card is required to view silent auction items.  The silent auction ends on Sunday, November 22 at 3 pm.  Crittenton Centers has been serving the Peoria community for 127 years. Their mission is to protect and nurture children and families in the Peoria community. Crittenton Centers’ services include: The Crisis Nursery, Child Development Center, and Family Services.

Silent auction items include 80 designer-decorated trees, wreaths, and holiday decor and may be viewed in person as part of this year’s Scavenger Hunt taking place at event sponsor locations including:  the Metro Center, Bremer Jewelry, Le Bakery, Mt. Hawley Court (Corner of Pioneer Parkway & Knoxville Ave), Bob Lindsay Acura, Bob Lindsay Honda, Jeffery Alans, and Lippman’s Furniture, and Interiors.  Download the scavenger hunt form to complete when visiting the locations and return by Sunday, November 22nd at 2 pm to be entered to win one of two prizes.

The first live stream event for the Festival is the “Jingle & Mingle” and will take place on Thursday, November 19 beginning at 6 pm.  Featuring a “How It’s Made” journey from how the perfect cocktails, delicious dishes, beautiful trees, great childhoods, and strong communities are made hosted by local entrepreneur Travis Mohlenbrink, the $50 ticket package includes a pre-made dinner including cider glazed chicken breast, roasted root vegetables, rosemary baked potatoes, roll, and dessert or a vegetarian option with a choice of  wine or beer and a special surprise gift made by the children of Crittenton Centers.   A raffle to win a diamond necklace valued at $1620 will take place in conjunction with the event.  Raffle tickets are $20 each with the winner drawn during the livestream event.

The second livestream event in the Festival is the “Brunch & Bubbly” which will take place on Saturday, November 21 beginning at 9 am.  The $75 limited-edition package ticket includes a complete crafted DIY kit to complete your handmade wood sign of the words Comfort and Joy, a complete breakfast casserole with meat, fruit cup, and sweetbreads from Cracked Pepper or a vegetarian option, a mimosa drink kit, and a surprise gift from the children at Crittenton Centers. The $35 package ticket includes all of the above except the crafted DIY kit.  A raffle to win a diamond necklace valued at $1120 will take place in conjunction with the event.  Raffle tickets are $20 each with the winner drawn during the livestream event.

Instructions to join each livestream plus a link to the event will be emailed to ticket holders.  Tickets for the livestreams must be purchased by Saturday, November 14.  For full details on the Festival of Trees, visit https://www.crittentoncenters.org/Events/Festival-of-Trees

Children’s Home Asks for Help Fulfilling Holiday Wish Lists

While this year has been filled with disruption and chaos for all of us, Children’s Home wants to ensure the young people they serve don’t miss out on feeling special during the upcoming holidays.

This month they kick off their Holiday Wish List campaign, which allows people to purchase pre-packaged $50 gift baskets that will be delivered to the children, young adults and families the agency serves each month. Each basket has a different theme and targets a different age group, ranging from infant to young adult, and purchasers can select which ones to buy. The baskets were designed based on some of the most commonly requested items from clients.

“Concerns with COVID had our team brainstorming on alternative means of still delivering wish lists to our kids,” says Children’s Home CEO Matt George. “I love that this is a safe, contactless way of matching donors to individualized gifts for a child that might not otherwise have anything to open.”

This year’s adapted gift drive is backed by support from local vendors including So Chic Boutique, The School House Express, and Lori’s Kitchen Store. These businesses generously donated their time and expertise to help coordinate and assemble the baskets.

Individuals, families, businesses, or other groups can purchase Wish Lists by visiting www.chail.org   There is no limit on number of baskets purchased. Children’s Home is hoping to fulfill more than 1,200 Wish Lists by its target date of November 30 so that gifts can be delivered to kids and families before the holidays. Questions about the program can be directed to development@chail.org or 309-687-7215.

“I’m consistently amazed at the generosity of this community,” remarks George. “Whenever there’s a need, we rise to meet it… and this year we need our community more than ever. We are grateful for any gift folks are able to give a child this year.”



Dia De Los Muertos: Love Never Dies

Artists ReEnvisioning Tomorrow (ART, Inc.) is excited to announce their second annual fundraiser, Dia De Los Muertos: Love Never Dies, will take place online on Friday, October 30. The VIP event begins at 5:50 pm, and the general programming begins at 6:30 pm. In keeping with the Mexican holiday that honors and remembers friends and family who are no longer with us, the event will honor the life of Annie Jo Gordon, the mother of Illinois State Representative Jehan Gordon-Booth.

Art, INC.’s executive director Nikki Romain said “Even though we’re unable to celebrate in person, we still feel it’s very important to bring awareness of culture to the community and it is an honor for us to celebrate the life of Annie Jo Gordon, a Peorian who contributed over 40 years of her life to the people in our community.  I’m also very excited to personally pay tribute to the life of Annie Jo Gordon by singing a couple of her favorite songs!”

 Annie Jo Gordon led an awe-inspiring life, serving for 27 years with the Tri-County Urban League. Her legacy impacted countless lives across the Peoria area, as she worked diligently to help others.

The virtual evening kicks off with the VIP event, which includes a special mix-and-mingle Zoom happy hour with artist Jonathon Romain, Nikki Romain, and Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, a swag bag, and a take-away dinner from Casa de Arte (1127 SW Adams, Peoria).

Following that, the main event Dia De Los Muertos: Love Never Dies will be hosted by Carolina Huser, Head Leader at Performing Arts Master Classes and Events (PAME), and Christine Bare Kemper, Strategic Philanthropy Officer at OSF Healthcare Foundation. The virtual event will feature surprise guests and performances by Nikki Romain, executive director of ART, Inc., and Arturo Vargas, co-owner of restaurant and art gallery Casa de Arte.

The event supports ART Inc.’s mission to inspire and empower the community through the arts.

VIP entry, which includes both the VIP perks and general admission to the event, is $75. General admission entry is $35 and are available at https://309tix.com

Corn Stock Theatre Presents a New Digital Play Series

Corn Stock Theatre is adapting to the new reality where theatres aren’t hosting live performances due to COVID with a new Digital Play Series.  Normally, Corn Stock would be preparing for it’s Winter Season where smaller audiences see performances in the Theatre Center.  Tonight, “The Other Half” will premiere this new digital play series in lieu of the cancelled Winter Season with a live stream performance beginning at 7:30 pm.   A second live stream opportunity will take place on Thursday, September 24 beginning at 7:30 pm.

An original play by Jonathan Lane, “The Other Half” is directed by Chris Peterlin and features Nathan Apodaca as Sora, Alexa Johnson as Pip, Megan Johnston as Mira’s Mind, Anna Oxborrow as Sora’s Mind, and Nyk Sutter-Downs as Pip’s Mind.  Pip and Sora, two college freshmen who meet each other on their first day on campus, and soon a relationship begins to develop and blossom as they navigate the intricacies of life and the dating world with the help of their individual minds. This hysterical and touching play is like How I Met Your Mother meets Inside Out.  Live streaming tickets are $10 for an individual code or $15 for a family code www.cornstocktickets.com

Additional shows making up the series include The New Hamlet on Saturday, October 3rd at 7:30 pm and Thursday, October 8th at 7:30 pm, Unidentified Human Remains on Saturday, October 17th at 7:30 pm and The War of the Worlds: The 1938 Radio Play on Friday, October 30th at 7:30 pm.

For more information, call 309-676-2196 or email manager@cornstocktheatre.com

Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall Coming to East Peoria

The traveling memorial honoring those who gave their lives for our country while serving in Vietnam will be in Central Illinois for five days this month. Arriving with a formal motorcycle escort, the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall will be on display Wednesday, Sept. 23 through Sunday, Sept. 27 in East Peoria’s Levee Park in the 400 block of West Washington Street. This will be the first time East Peoria has hosted the traveling memorial wall.

The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall is a 3/5-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It stands 6 feet tall at the center and is almost 300 feet long. As of 2011, there are 58,272 names on the wall, the same as the Washington, D.C. wall.

Volunteer opportunities are available for the formal motorcycle escort and to set up and take down the display.

The wall will arrive in East Peoria between 9:30 – 10 am Wednesday, Sept. 23. It will take volunteers about four hours to assemble the wall, which has 142 sections consisting of two panels each.

Those who want to help assemble or take down the wall should be age 18 or older and able to do the physical activity of setting up or taking down the display. Set-up is set for Wednesday, Sept. 23 from 10 am – 3 pm and the wall will be disassembled Sunday, Sept. 27 from 2 – 5 pm. To volunteer, email event co-chairman Dan Decker at dandecker73@gmail.com.

Quiet Pride Motorcycle Club, comprised of current and former military personnel, is organizing the formal escort of the wall into East Peoria, assisted by the East Peoria Police, Tazewell County Sheriff’s Department and Illinois State Police. Those wanting to be involved with the escort should email their name and phone number to Ron Hawotte at vanmo501@yahoo.com

An opening ceremony will occur at noon Sept. 24. Featured will be the posting of colors by the Tazewell Military Rites Team, the Star Spangled Banner performed by East Peoria violinist Elise Ahrens, the Missing Man Table and Honors Ceremony conducted by the Pekin Junior ROTC, and remarks by Brig. Gen. Clayton Moushon and retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Harold Arthur “Hal” Fritz.

Moushon, of East Peoria, serves as the first Air National Guard assistant to the commander, Legal Operations Agency. Fritz, of Peoria, is a recipient of the U.S. military’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions during the Vietnam War. During a firefight and despite serious wounds, Fritz continued leading and fighting alongside his platoon against a strong enemy attack, and the enemy fighters eventually withdrew.

The display will be open 24 hours a day, and social distancing guidelines will be observed. Admission is free.

During the memorial’s appearance, volunteers will man a book listing the location of each name on the wall and materials to make etchings of the names will be available. Fondulac District Library will have displays about the Vietnam War in the lobby of the Civic Plaza building adjacent to Levee Park.

A brief closing ceremony at noon on Sunday, Sept. 27 will feature a 21-gun salute and the retirement of the colors.

Community donations funded the wall’s appearance.  Funds received beyond will benefit the Greater Peoria Honor Flight. The group transports veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit the national memorial sites and representatives will be on hand while the wall is in town with information about becoming involved with the organization.

For more information about the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall, visit www.cityofeastpeoria.com

Pekin Marigold Festival: A Taste of Marigold

This year’s Pekin Marigold Festival, “A Taste of Marigold” will be a little different this year due to the pandemic.  Unlike many other annual area festivals, the Marigold Festival WILL take place although in a modified way.

For instance, there will be no carnival, Miss Marigold Pageant or Art in the Park because of restrictions by the state.  But many of the mainstays will happen including the Parade.  It will take place on Saturday, Sept. 12 beginning at 9 am in Mineral Springs Park but will be a “drive thru” meaning that instead of the floats rolling past you in a static position (like on a lawn chair for example), you drive through the floats another parade participants and view them in your vehicle.  Sponsored by Busey Bank, to register as a participant, email info@pekinchamber.com  The full parade route will be posted on Wednesday, September 9 at https://www.pekinchamber.com/marigoldparade.html

The Medallion Hunt is another of the elements of the Festival that will continue this year.  It began on Monday, August 31st with clues being posted on the Marigold Festival Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/PekinMarigoldFestival  The winner will receive $1500 in cash in addition to the actual Medallion as well as bragging rights.

The Festive Foods portion of the Festival will also look different:  again, due to state restrictions due to COVID19, the 13 non-profit organizations from the Pekin area will have food available for curbside pick up at the First United Methodist Church Parking lot.  Located at 1315 Court Street in Pekin, the Festive Foods area will be open Saturday, September 12 from 11  am – 4 pm and Sunday, September 13, 2020 from Noon – 4 pm.  This is the largest fundraiser annually for many of the non-profit organizations and is sponsored by Pekin Insurance.

A new feature this year is the Drive-In Movies that will take place during the Festival in Mineral Springs Park.  On Friday, September 11 the movie “Sing” will be shown and on Saturday, September 12, the movie “Ghostbusters” will be shown.  Gates open at 6:30 pm and the movies will begin at 7:30 pm.  Admission is $20 per car and includes a large goodie bag with popcorn, candy and water all presented by Dan Pfeifer State Farm in Pekin.  You can purchase your tickets in advance at https://www.pekinchamber.com/marigolddrivein.html

The Chalk Walk will be held on Sunday from Noon – 4 pm on the sidewalk around the Lagoon in Mineral Springs Park.  Sponsored by NRG Energy – Powerton Generating Station, cash prizes will be awarded to artists who participate.  To register to be an artist in this event, visit http://business.pekinchamber.com/events/details/chalk-walk-16878

The Kids Experience will be a virtual one this year with packet pickup available on Saturday, September 5 at Vonderheide’s Floor Covering at 105 N. 14th St. from 10 am – 12 pm and Vonderheide’s building at 290 Derby St. from 2 – 4 pm. Activities will be posted on the Festival Facebook page daily beginning Monday, September 7 through Sunday, September 13.  This event is sponsored by Vonderheide’s Floor Covering as well as the Tazewell County Health Department, the Pekin Public Library and the YWCA.

For more details about the 2020 Marigold Festival, visit https://www.pekinchamber.com/marigoldfestival.html

New Classes Available at the Peoria Art Guild

The Peoria Art Guild has been busy rebuilding its Art Education program and getting a wide variety of art classes for all ages scheduled after re-opening earlier this summer. Art classes have changed slightly to accommodate recommended health and safety guidelines.

Classes are limited in size to allow for 6 feet social distancing in between workstations, face coverings are required, sharing of art supplies is discouraged and classrooms are disinfected after each use.

Despite the changes, people are still eager to get out, have fun, flex their creative muscles and learn new skills. Art classes that were held over the summer were smaller in size but still a success. 

The Peoria Art Guild has a full schedule of upcoming classes this Fall that cover a wide variety of disciplines. From one-night workshops like the Cigar Box Guitar workshop September 3 to 6-week in-depth courses like Oil Painting beginning September 14, there is an art class for everyone.

Upcoming art classes include Introduction to Photography and iPhone Photography, digital art classes like Introduction to Digital Art and Introduction to Canva. Kids classes include Drawing 101 and Creative Arts Discovery Club. Printmaking classes are being offered this Fall in the new printmaking Room and include Repeated Pattern Block Printing and Introduction to Letterpress and Relief Printing. Batik Dyeing for Kids, Sewing Machine Crash Course, and Pysanky workshops are scheduled in the Fiber Arts classroom. The ceramics classroom offers 6-Week Pottery Series with the next sessions starting September 29 and October 1.

 Peoria Art Guild also has a brand new program beginning this Fall to make art education accessible to everyone. The aim of the Community Arts Program is to offer in-person or virtual classes and workshops to underserved populations at little or no cost.

 There will also be holiday- themed workshops and classes scheduled for December.  Visit http://peoriaartguild.org and follow Peoria Art Guild social media to stay up to date on all upcoming classes.

No Tee Time Golf Tournament for Children’s Home

Most people think of Children’s Home when they drive past the large brick building on Knoxville Ave. but don’t have a real understanding of the organization. Their team of over 400 staff members provides counseling, education and support to nearly 1,700 children each month who are in need of crisis intervention, mental health assessments, family preservation, foster care, residential and supervised independent living. These services are provided at various locations throughout the Peoria area.

A portion of the funding needed to provide these vital services comes from special events. Obviously Children’s Home has had to put a new spin on how they look at the 2020 event season. They have come up with something pretty creative – a golf tournament that doesn’t require sun block, toting around a heavy bag, or even a specific tee time! The No Tee Time Tourney presented by PNC will be held September 24-October 1. Tickets are $50 per person and registration is available now at www.chail.org

Here’s how it works:

  • PLAYING: Through the WGT by Topgolf platform, you will be able to virtually play 18 holes of photorealistic golf at the stunning Wolf Creek Golf Club in Nevada. Play as often as you would like at any time of day from Thursday, September 24 through Thursday, October 1 at 5:00 pm CDT. When the tourney closes, your best overall score will be used as we determine our winners!
  • ADDITIONAL CHALLENGES: Our major sponsors will also be offering several Daily Golf Challenges. $50 cash prizes will be awarded for these, so be sure to give them a try!
  • COMPETITION: Players will compete on an individual basis only (not foursomes).
  • BONUS: Golfers will have access to a Virtual Swag Bag, filled with valuable offers redeemable at local businesses.
  • SILENT AUCTION: A variety of fun items and packages will be offered all week long in the Silent Auction, so be sure get your bids in! You may also easily make a contribution to Children’s Home through this platform, too.

First prize for the 18 hole tournament is $500, so sign up now and start honing your online golf game.

Team sponsorships are also available by contacting Kaci Hampton at khampton@chail.org or 309-687-7275.