Christmas celebrations may look different this year, but efforts to safely offer good tidings and cheer are ongoing in O’Fallon.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic and the state’s Tier 3 mitigation restrictions, some of the O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce Tinsel Around Town activities have been canceled, but the Downtown District will still be a festive destination Saturday, Dec. 12, with the Vine Street Winter Market open while several businesses have activities planned.
“We’ve made additional adjustments to make the experience safer for those who want to attend and are excited that we will still be having this market,” said Sarah Burton, market coordinator.
The Vine Street Winter Market is set for 3:30-7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12, at the O’Fallon Station.
“Familiar vendors from the summer market will be there plus additional artisan vendors. The market is entirely outdoors and vendors will be spaced out to spread visitors out throughout the market area,” Burton said. “Bundle up and shop for your essential local foods and unique holiday gifts.”
Reservation-only carriage rides will leave from the O’Fallon Station starting at 4:30 p.m. and travel through the O’Fallon Downtown District if people want to see them, she said.
“The rides are sold out already, but we have had last-minute cancellations in the past, so people can always come and check in with us to see if there is an opening,” Burton said.
O’Fallon Illuminated Holiday Parade
In October, Chairman Beth Ortega had announced plans to switch gears to a crossover-type event with the Winter Market and the Chamber’s Tinsel Around Town, a modified version of the reverse parade. They had planned to bring the city floats downtown to line the streets, and then have interactive characters on the stationary floats, including Santa on his sleigh.
From 2017-19, Ortega had led a big team of volunteers to produce a massive parade that exceeded expectations and drew record crowds, but COVID-19 circumstances forced changes for 2020.
On Dec. 3, she announced their plans for the city’s lighted floats and musical performers would not happen, citing safety reasons.
“We need to keep the crowds small but still make the small business support ginormous,” Ortega said. “For this moment, let’s keep the most important lights on, shining brightly this holiday season and beyond, in these wonderful small businesses and local restaurants — and in every room of every home in our community, where our friends and families are still with us — for many wonderful years to come.”
Ortega asked everyone to join them in sharing hope and spreading some much-needed happiness.
“We send our great love out to you all and wish for you to find every happiness gifted in this holiday season of home,” she said. “And as soon as we can all gather again, we will be busy prepping for a great parade event in 2021.”
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
The O’Fallon Parks and Recreation will host Santa visits from 5-7 p.m. beginning Wednesday, Dec. 16, and again Saturday, Dec. 19, and Wednesday, Dec. 23, at the O’Fallon Station.
“This is a free event for our community to come and see Santa and take photos with him,” Burton said. “No reservations required.”
Snowman Selfie Challenge
The O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce is seeking selfie photos taken with a snowman at participating local businesses for uploading in the comments of the Official Snowman Selfie Challenge Facebook post. They will be entered into a random drawing to win cash prizes.
The contest deadline is Sunday, Dec. 20, and the winners will be announced on the Facebook page Monday, Dec. 21, with four cash prizes ranging from $50 to $250 to be given out.
Details and official rules can be found on their website: https://ofallonchamber.com/snowman/
To be eligible, people must tag the business (type the @ sign and then the name of the business). Each selfie comment gives people an entry into the drawing, but only one entry per business, director Debbie Arell-Martinez said.
“If there are multiple people in the photo, you can each post a selfie, but it must be from different Facebook accounts,” she said.
Businesses are requested to send their snowmen photos to the chamber and they will share them.
Angel Tree Help
Be a helper elf for a child in need — there are lots of angels left on the tree at the O’Fallon YMCA.
People can also shop virtually. Buy a gift from the Amazon wish list and the YMCA staff will handle everything else: https://www.amazon.com/…/ls/3OHUKU2H77D2S/ref=hz_ls_biz_ex
Christmas Window Decorations
Andrea Keim has started painting her windows at The Salon by Andrea at 502 W. State St., Suite 101, to help build her business. She offers a drawing each month for people who take a photo with one of the windows and then check in at the salon. Chances increase through social media interaction.
Keim, who opened her salon in June, said the artwork has been a real mood booster.
“People honk and stop and talk to me,” she said. “People need some cheering up.”
Scott Kaiser, who owns Gia’s Pizza, noticed her decorated windows and sent out a challenge to artists. While it seemed there was much interest, there weren’t any takers, he said, so it turned into a family affair — his daughter, Sophia, and her stepbrother, James, and stepsister, Mackenzie Cohlberg, spent an afternoon masked up and painting the exterior sunroom windows.
On Saturday nights when the Vine Street Market is open, Kaiser began a tradition making dinner with his daughter using ingredients they bought that morning at the O’Fallon Station. In that spirit, Kaiser plans to make a huge batch of Italian Chili and offer it starting Thursday, Dec. 10, until it runs out. Market ingredients include Nitro Salsa, D&M Farms pork sausage, Dierks Farms beef and Gia’s pizza sauce.
“I was messing around with the vendors’ products. I like keeping everything local,” he said.
Kaiser has been in business downtown for 14 years.
“We’re one of the older places. We need everyone to support downtown. There is a lot of unity there. I believe we are stronger together,” he said.
Fezziwig’s Marketplace has extended its free shipping on orders of $100 or more through Sunday, Dec. 13. People can shop online at www.fezziwigsmarket.com
Wreaths Across America
The O’Fallon Rotary Club will again participate in this national event. Col. John “Woody” Almind said the ceremony will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 19, at the O’Fallon Cemetery.
“We’ve purchased a total of 747 wreaths and after the ceremony at 11 a.m., we’ll be placing wreaths in three O’Fallon cemeteries and three Shiloh cemeteries,” he said.
- O’Fallon City Cemetery, 601 N. Oak St. (340 wreaths)
- Keppler’s Cemetery aka St. Joseph Burial Association, near 701 O’Fallon-Troy Road (25 wreaths)
- Rock Spring Cemetery, 40 Commerce Drive, Lebanon, near cement plant (five wreaths)
- Mount Calvary Catholic Cemetery (St. Clare Cemetery) near 4060 Lebanon Ave., Shiloh (300 wreaths)
- Shiloh Cemetery, near 210 S. Main St., across the street from Shiloh First United Methodist Church (70 wreaths)
- Engelmann Cemetery, off Shiloh Station Road, Shiloh (five wreaths)
Scouts and OTHS JROTC are helping place the wreaths.
“We’re asking all participants and visitors to wear masks and practice social distancing,” Almind said.
“The mission of Wreaths Across America is to remember the fallen, honor those who serve and their families and teach our children the value of freedom,” he said.