One of the largest lighted holiday events in the Midwest returns to Central Illinois during the 34th annual East Peoria Festival of Lights, running from Nov. 22 through Dec. 31.

Many of the festival events are named for Folepi, the festival’s toy soldier mascot and an acronym for “Festival Of Lights East Peoria Illinois.”

The Parade of Lights starts the festival at 5:45 p.m. Nov. 17. This year’s parade features a new Santa Claus float. Santa will appear at the end of the parade in a 54-foot long float, featuring a larger sleigh containing illuminated packages, and animation so the reindeer look as though they are flying. Lead reindeer Rudolph “flies” 14 feet high in the air. This float is twice as long as the old Santa float.

Approximately 30 lighted floats will glide along the parade route, which was changed in 2017 and will be used again this year. The parade starts at the intersection of East Washington Street and Dolans Lane, where Auto Zone is located. It will continue along East Washington Street, turning left at the intersection with Camp Street. The parade will then turn right from Washington onto Taylor Street at East Peoria Autobody, continue along Taylor in front of Central Junior High School, and end at Taylor Street and Springfield Road at the U.S. Post Office. A map of the parade route is available at www.folepi.org.

In the days following the parade, the floats will be moved into a city park in preparation for the opening of the Folepi’s Winter Wonderland drive-through display.  

 

FOLEPI’S WINTER WONDERLAND

Folepi’s Winter Wonderland drive-through display opens at 5 p.m. Thanksgiving night and will remain open through New Year’s Eve, including Christmas Eve and Christmas night. Featured are lighted parade floats and 

themed display areas such as the Western Town, Circus Land, Space Travel and the Prehistoric Area. Winter Wonderland hours are 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Admission is $10 for regular vehicles (cars, trucks and vans), $30 for a small bus (party, shuttle, mini and school), and $150 for full-size charter buses. Entrance wait times Sunday through Thursday nights are usually significantly less than on Friday and Saturday night, so visitors should plan appropriately.

Those who go to Folepi’s Winter Wonderland on Monday nights can get a sweet treat this year during Chick-fil-A Mondays at the Festival of Lights. Every vehicle through the drive-through display on Mondays from Nov. 26 through Dec. 31 will receive a free dessert at Chick-fil-A East Peoria. Two free dessert offers per vehicle will be available while supplies last. Visit www.folepi.org for more details.

FOLEPI’S ENCHANTED FOREST

A popular place for taking selfies or photos of the kids is Folepi’s Enchanted Forest at 401 W. Washington St., in East Peoria’s Levee District shopping area. Folepi’s Enchanted Forest features the festival’s 35-foot tall Christmas tree, lighted trees decorated by East Peoria’s grade school students, and the Terry the Tractor parade float. The display will open for the season during an official lighting ceremony, featuring carols by the Caterpillar Employees Mixed Chorus, from 5:45 to 6:15 p.m. Nov. 24. Santa will be at the forest from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24 and Fridays Nov. 30, Dec. 7, Dec. 14 and Dec. 21.

NARRATED NATIVITY DISPLAY

The Narrated Nativity, located at the intersection of Taylor Street and Springfield Road, has a three-dimensional appearance at night and details the “reason for the season”. Those tuning to radio station 1610 AM will hear a 2-minute narration. Admission is free. Unlike the rest of the festival displays, the Narrated Nativity is funded by private donations through the Nativity Display Association.

Other Festival of Lights Events

The lights are the star of the show, but there are many other events that comprise the Festival of Lights.

• Find Folepi - The ornament hunt will begin with the release of the first clue on Nov. 21. Clues will be posted each Wednesday on www.folepi.org and www.facebook.com/EPFestivalofLights, and in the East Peoria Times-Courier. The winner will receive a prize package of prizes from local businesses, and they can keep the ornament. The hunt is open to everyone.

• FOLEPI River Trail Classic and Get Lit runs - The FOLEPI River Trail Classic competitive run and non-competitive walk is Nov. 24 on the River Trail of Illinois. The run starts at 9 a.m., preceded by the walk at 8:30 a.m. The family friendly Get Lit fun run occurs at 11:50 p.m. New Year’s Eve in Folepi’s Winter Wonderland. Entry forms are available on www.folepi.org.

• Postage Cancellation Stamp – Decorate your mail with the Festival of Lights postage cancellation stamp, commissioned by the East Peoria Chamber of Commerce. This cancellation stamp is available one day only, from 8 until 11 a.m. Dec. 1 at the East Peoria Post Office and features the words “East Peoria Festival of Lights Station”.

• Theatrical productions - Eastlight Theatre’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat will be presented for its 28th year. The musical is set for 7:30 p.m. Nov. 30, Dec. 1 and Dec. 5-8, and 2 p.m. Dec. 2 and 9 at the Bryon Moore Auditorium at East Peoria Community High School. The Festival of Lights Cruises on the Spirit of Peoria paddle-wheeler features the show A Civil War Christmas. In addition, Central Illinois Ballet will present The Nutcracker at the Illinois Central College Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m. Dec. 14, and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 15, and 2 p.m. Dec. 16.

• Folepi’s Gifts Galore Shop and Stroll – Set in East Peoria’s Historic Four Corners District and adjacent areas, this event runs from 1 until 4 p.m. Dec. 1 and features shopping in locally owned stores, free horse-drawn carriage rides with Santa, carols by the East Peoria Community High School Chorale, free face painting, and free balloon art by The Unique Twist. Many of the participating businesses will offer door prize drawings and holiday refreshments. Those spending $25 or more at the participating businesses will receive a free pass for Folepi’s Winter Wonderland drive-through display.

• Historic Holiday Traditions – A look back at the holiday traditions of the 1800s will occur during two open houses presented by the East Peoria Historical Society. The open houses will occur from 1 until 3 p.m. and by candlelight from 4 until 6 p.m. at the 138-year-old Doering Homeplace, 326 Pekin Ave. Admission is free.

• Pancakes & Photos with Santa – This new event, presented by St. Jude Runs East Peoria, will let children join Santa for a pancake breakfast from 9 until 11:30 a.m. Dec. 15 at the East Peoria Civic Plaza, 401 W. Washington St. Photos will start at 10 a.m. Those wanting photos should bring their own camera. Registration is required, and all proceeds will benefit the children of St. Jude.

For more information about the Festival of Lights and event registration forms, visit www.folepi.org, www.facebook.com/EPFestivalofLights, www.epcc.org or call toll-free 1-855-833-5327.