The holiday season in Elgin will kick off in earnest Saturday with the Holiday Cheers beverage crawl and annual tree lighting.
Both events are part of the monthlong Holly Days celebration and coincide with Small Business Saturday. The city hopes the events will give people a glimpse of what downtown Elgin is all about.
"We're very excited about what we have to offer this year," said Jennifer Fukala, executive director of the Downtown Neighborhood Association. "With the addition of Holiday Cheers, Small Business Saturday saw more foot traffic last year than ever before."
The Holly Days concept is in its third year. It runs throughout December and features three Friday holiday markets at The Haight and window art on downtown storefronts. In addition, there is the Krampus Krawl of bars and restaurants on Dec. 10. Letters to Santa are being collected in a special mailbox in front of the Centre of Elgin until Dec. 16.
The inaugural Holiday Cheers beverage crawl sold out last year.
"I had some of the best drinks ever last year, and I'm excited for this year," said Amanda Harris, assistant to the city manager. "It's such unique stuff, and it's not just cocoa and cider. These businesses put a lot of time and energy into what they're providing."
Rest assured, there are plenty of variations of cocoa and cider. There are also more unique offerings among the more than 20 choices this year. They include coquito, a traditional Puerto Rican coconut eggnog without the eggs, from BeaUnique Latin Kitchen; ponche navideño, a warm, spiced Christmas punch, from Ceramica; and champurrado, a warm Mexican drink made with chocolate, masa harina, milk, water, cinnamon and vanilla, from Pastigel Bakery.
Eight hundred cups will be available for purchase for the event: 700 commemorative insulated cups ($25) and 100 hand-thrown mugs ($40) made by downtown business Steep N Clay.
The beverage crawl will go from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Alcoholic add-ins are available for an extra fee at some locations.
To purchase tickets for cups or get more information, visit DowntownElgin.com/HollyDays.
The city's annual tree lighting will follow as Mayor David Kaptain and Santa Claus will flip the switch at Festival Park. The Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra will provide the music. Like last year, giant piñatas filled with Mexican and American candies will be available for kids to bash.
"It was a great success last year," Harris said, "and we're always looking for ways to make our events more reflective of the greater population."