On Saturday, the Chesterton community kicked off their holiday season with their annual Hometown Holidays event, featuring a tree lighting ceremony, shopping extravaganza, and Santa Clause parade.
“We call it Hometown Holidays,” said Jennifer Marinangeli, Member Engagement Director for the Duneland Chamber of Commerce. “We’re a small town that is all about community relationships. That’s what makes Duneland what it is.”
The evening began with #ShopSmall, a citywide open house for local businesses. It was the Chamber’s way of including them in the festivities.
“It’s important for our community to support local business. They give so much to make our community strong,” said Maura Durham, President of the Chamber. To her, Christmas means tradition, love, family, and community. It means bringing everyone together with one parade. “We like to do the parade at night. There aren’t many night parades, and it really captures the essence of Christmas spirit.”
They could not have put on Hometown Holidays without the support of sponsors like Porter Health Care System, Applebee’s, and Duneland Kiwanis.
“Kiwanis members have seen both Need and Giving,” said Kiwanis Past-President Jon Winey. “So as a club, we see the Holidays as the best opportunity to share what talents we have, to help provide a better holiday for those who are lacking one.”
People warmed their hands on cups of cocoa from the Kiwanis booth. Children played Cops and Robbers with light up swords and fairy wands. Carolers sang beneath a dark gazebo.
All were waiting for the countdown to begin.
Fourth grader Jodie Greenen, this year's Duneland Chamber Essay Contest winner, waited until the count of five to press the oversized red button. The pavilion came to life behind her. The lighting of the Community Tree signalled the evening’s finale:
The 2016 Hometown Holidays parade was the biggest one yet. Floats done up as Whoville, Winter Wonderland, and the Island of Misfit Toys featured our favorite Christmas characters. Santa rode in the fire truck caboose, alongside his Elf on the Shelf.
The parade took Santa to his winter residence at Thomas Centennial Park. Children and their parents lined up to meet him.
Jenny Klimek and her children, Timmy and Sydney, came down to watch the parade. Jenny explained, “The holidays make us happy. We get to spend time with family, making memories.”
To Deanna Kasch, the European Market Manager, the Holidays mean family, good times, and memories.
“Everyone seems to get in the Holiday mood,” she said. “It’s nice to see everyone come out and do that together. It makes us closer, makes the Holiday more special.”