Peoria’s Old Town Holiday Festival is returning at full capacity from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11, at Johnny E. Osuna Memorial Park, near 83rd and Grand avenues.
For the second time, the event brings together two Peoria traditions: Old Town Holiday Festival and Second Saturdays for the second time.
“They will have their own stages, and there will be a beer garden on that side along with other elements,” said Andrea Foote, Peoria’s special events coordinator.
Attendees can stroll through historic Old Town Peoria, between Peoria and Grand avenues, visit with Santa Claus and experience entertainment and festivities.
The festival will feature bounce houses, roaming high school choirs from Peoria, local merchants and vendors selling gift items, a gingerbread house display, holiday photo opportunities, and performances from local musicians and dancers.
The park will also boast a Letters to Santa Station, an interactive winter wonderland snow globe, holiday horse-drawn carriage rides and a Christmas-themed coloring wall.
New elements include figure skaters and obstacle courses.
Every year, members of the Peoria City Council gather with residents to turn on the park’s Christmas lights at 7:15 p.m. Also, the Peoria Fire-Medical Department will help Santa Claus arrive safely to the festival and then stay for family pictures.
“Old Town Holiday Festival is a huge footprint. There’s a lot going on,” Foote said. “I think pictures with Santa and lighting the Christmas trees will be a big hit.”
Foote said she anticipates a large turnout, following in the footsteps of Peoria’s Fourth of July and Halloween events.
“The reason why our events are busy in general is because everything’s free,” Foote said. “We’re not charging for Santa photos, no wristbands for activities. Everything that we’re offering at Old Town Holiday is free besides if someone wants to buy food from the food vendors.”
This holiday event has been an annual tradition for the city of Peoria for more than 30 years. Foote has only been coordinating the festival for three years, but she has fond memories.
“Peoria is big on making a stance of affordability that any family can come and participate in our events,” Foote said. “I think it’s huge seeing families that come to our events and all the little kids who get excited.”
Foote isn’t the only one excited to see the festival returning at full force.
“This year, we have the opportunity to bring the community together once again to celebrate the holiday season,” said Marylou Stephens, Peoria art and events manager, in a statement.
“We are very happy to bring this holiday tradition back and are featuring a variety of new elements.”
For Old Town Holiday Festival, Peoria is encouraging social distancing, facial coverings and hand washing.
Peoria hosted a festival, with limited activities, last year.
“During COVID, we didn’t do our Old Town Holiday Festival, but we did have something,” Foote said.
“We had local artists and a couple of food trucks where we have Old Town Holiday at Osuna Park,” Foote said. “Families still got out to see the lights and take pictures, but they had a local artist to see while they were there.” PT
Peoria’s Old Town
WHEN: 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11
WHERE: Johnny E. Osuna Memorial Park, near 83rd and Grand avenues
COST: Free admission