CULVER — The Culver Tree Lighting has been a tradition in Culver for over a decade. Ambitious additions to the festivities have included cookie decorating, caroling and other activities organized by the local Culver Youth Community Organization (CYCO). This year, the student leadership organization has taken on the expansion of a parade. 

There is no cost to attend the event or participate in the parade. Culver Park Superintendent Amber Cowell welcomes one and all. “Anyone who loves who loves Culver is welcome to come celebrate Culver with us!” 

“The event itself was started over a decade ago by the Culver Youth Community Organization. 

Christmas cookie decorating will kick-off the event starting at 6 p.m. inside the Culver Train Depot. Refreshments including snacks, hot chocolate and coffee are being provided free of charge by the Culver Coffee Company and Miller’s Merry Manor.

The park will be providing holiday swag. “It is a real collaborative effort among the town. The park always hands out Christmas gear. Usually it’s headgear and hats with antlers on it. We hand those out to everyone to get them all festive. The CYCO kids enjoy handing them out to everybody.”

Cowell detailed what to expect, “At 6:45 p.m. we will be heading out to the pine tree which is just in front of the train depot. That’s where the tree lighting takes place. Seller’s Services always decorates all of the trees in the park for us. For the tree lighting we usually have everybody gather around. It’s a really nice moment. We have a speaker. In year’s past we have had Jeff Kinney share about the history of the town. We are still exploring speakers for the event this year. We usually have a town representative there to give a speech. Another nice feature is that a CYCO representative or a few from each school will speak. It’s nice to have that as well.”

A community countdown similar to the ringing in of the New Year in New York will be emulated to bring on the lights, “We sing together and we count down the tree lighting with a 3, 2,1 and we plug them in. Then all the lights on all the trees turn on.” 

“This year, that’s what’s going to be different. Once all the lights turn on, everyone would say ‘yay’, but then it was a little anticlimactic. So this year we wanted to spruce it up a little bit. That’s when Rose Workman from the Visitor’s Center approached me. Ginny (Bess Munroe) had put a post on Facebook about how fun it would be to have a parade. It’s funny how this all started as a little seed.” Cowell said with a smile. 

Cowell hopes for a lot of participation from Culver enthusiasts, “With events, people get used to consistently doing something. Since the parade is new, we don’t have a consistent base of people to form the foundation of it yet. So we are trying to establish that now. We want it to be sustainable, that’s really important. Right now we are looking for people to join up and be part of the parade.” 

The Culver Academies Black Horse Troop, Vespers and Gun and Rifle group have already committed to the participate. The Culver Union Township Fire Department, CYCO representatives and Santa Clause will also be in the parade. 

Cowell encourages participants to get creative. “By 7 p.m. it will be dark. So, we are encouraging people to light things up. Decorate with lights. We don’t want to hold anyone back. We want people to run with it and do whatever they want to. We are really encouraging people to get as creative as possible.” 

Cowell said holiday dressed pet dogs are welcome to participate in the parade, too. “We encourage everything, anything, anyone and everyone! Creativity is welcome. We just really want to see people who really care out spreading holiday cheer. People who care about the community want to see this become something!”

Parade participants will line up in the parking lot at the water tower. Once the trees are lit, the parade will follow Lake Shore Drive, turn onto Main Street and conclude downtown. “We want everyone to end up on Main St. That’s where the local businesses are selling their stuff. That’s where Santa will be. Santa will ride down. Main Street Studio agreed to host Santa. Any of the kids interested in meeting Santa, talking to Santa and taking pictures with Santa can meet him at Main Street Studio.” 

CYCO organizes the carolers and provides the caroling books. Cowell laughed, “I’ve done it, which says a lot. If I can do it, anybody can do it! I’m pretty tone deaf. It’s simple. You just follow along in the song book. We are really encouraging sports teams to participate this year.” 

“It’s a really good way for the local sports teams to give back to the community. To just go out. It’s good promotion for them among the community and a way for the team members to bond doing something together for their community on a Friday night.”

Cowell emphasized, “Absolutely everything is free about the holiday event.” Apart from retail or restaurant purchases, the holiday tree lighting event including the cookie decorating, hot chocolate, tree lighting, parade, interaction with Santa, photos with Santa, holiday gear, and the caroling is all free of charge. 

PDF registration forms for the parade can be requested from Cowell by emailing acowell@townofculver.org. A google link is also available on the park’s Facebook page @ Culver and Union Township Park under the event listing Culver Holiday Event December 6. 

Special thanks to the following contributors: Culver & Lake Maxinkuckee Visitor Center, Culver Academies, The Culver Coffee Company, Main Street Studio-Culver, 120 south main, Miller's Merry Manor - Culver, Joel Samuelson, Culver Youth Community Organization (CYCO), Culver Union Township Fire Department, and the Town of Culver.

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