November 21, 2014

Elyria
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Getting ready for the holidays

The holiday season is officially here, and starting this weekend, Elyria residents will have the chance to see downtown in all of its illuminated, holiday glory.

The Festival of Lights, the city`s annual lighting ceremony, will be held Sunday at Ely Square. The festival, which is from 4:30 to 6 p.m. features performances from the Sweet Adelines, a chorus group, as well as choirs from Murray Ridge, North Ridgeville, Elyria and Amherst Steele high schools.

JASON MILLER / CHRONICLE
Wesleyan Senior Living resident Pearl Jontz, 95, puts the finishing touches on a Christmas tree.

The Franklin Ballroom Dancers, elementary school students who learned how to ballroom dance, also are scheduled to perform.

Santa Claus will be escorted downtown by local Girl Scout troops at 6 p.m., when he and Mayor Bill Grace will light the square. But the outdoor lights and performances are just part of the evening. Inside City Hall, members of Lorain County Historical Society and Elyria Public Library will host a reading of holiday stories.

The festival is in its 18th year, said Tamela Grubb, program director for Main Street Elyria. It is a product of several local organizations working together, such as the Elyria Kiwanis, Abbewood, the Elyria Parks and Recreation Department and the city.

Volunteers, including local Boy Scout troops, help set up and light the luminaries around the square. The Red Cross passes out hot chocolate and goody bags for the kids, containing coloring books, crayons and candy, and are put together by members of the Elyria Kiwanis. Local Girl Scout troops have volunteered to carol throughout the downtown area to help create a festive atmosphere. According to Grubb, the Festival of Lights is funded primarily through donations.

“There are a lot of donations that help pull this off,” Grubb said. “It`s really everybody pulling together to talk to people and see how the event can happen.”

Depending on the weather, about 600 people are expected to attend the festival, Grubb said. Children curious as to whether they`ll be on Santa`s naughty or nice list can stop by Santa`s Workshop on Sunday.
“(Santa`s Workshop) has been on the square since 1987,” said Jim Miller, chairman of the project for the Elyria Sunrise Rotary.

Miller said it was originally a project of the now-defunct Exchange Club of Elyria. The current house was rebuilt by the Rotary in 2001 to accommodate for the festival`s need for a bigger house.
Santa`s Workshop will be open 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. The week before Christmas, it will be open 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Also scheduled for the holiday season is the annual display at Finwood Estate, which opens Dec. 7, said Frank Gustoff, director of the Elyria Parks and Recreation Department. The estate itself will be open 6 to 9 p.m. Dec. 7 to Dec. 20. It features a program that allows visitors to tour the inside of the estate and visit with Santa.

Gustoff said there is no admission charge, but the Parks and Recreation Department is asking instead for visitors to bring a canned food item. All items collected will be donated to the Elyria Hospitality House.

The outside of the estate will be lit Dec. 7 through Jan. 1.

Contact Kristen Halliday at 653-6285 or metro@chroniclet.com.