Illumination Holiday

The first Illumination Holiday Festival and the Parade of Lights soldiered through a rainstorm in 2019.

Santa Claus already made his grand return to Elk Grove on Nov. 27 when he was stranded for the nth time on a rooftop in Old Town during the annual Old Town Elk Grove Dickens Street Faire.

He’ll be back in Elk Grove on Saturday, Dec. 4 when the 2nd annual Illumination Holiday Festival will be held at the District56 community center from 1-6 p.m.

Following the festival, the Parade of Lights will take place on Civic Center Drive at 6 p.m. Visitors can then stick around and watch the lighting ceremony of the city’s 32-foot-tall ribbon-shaped tree that’s near the Veterans Grove.

The Illumination Holiday Festival is back after being canceled last year, due to COVID-safety protocols against large public gatherings.

“We want everyone to bring their best holiday smiles,” said Jodie Moreno, the city’s community events and special projects coordinator.

The festival has a multicultural theme and invites visitors to learn about holiday celebrations from around the world. Festivities will be held inside the District56 center where there will be a holiday marketplace of 30 vendors from different cultures who will sell items such as Mexican and African-style clothing, holiday baked goods, and Swedish Santa dolls.

Moreno noted there will be a Russian cultural group in the lobby that will sing Christmas carols in Russian. Visitors are also invited to have their pictures taken inside a giant, inflatable snow globe, she mentioned.

In the building’s Veterans Hall, there will be a children’s craft area where they can learn how to create Mexican-style luminaria or candle lanterns for Christmas.

Moreno said that Santa will be available for free photos in the District56 center’s mezzanine.

“This is a free event for everybody,” she said about the festival. “The only money you’ll need is if you want to buy anything or do holiday shopping.”

Festival parking will be open at the Elk Grove Aquatic Center, which is next door to the District56 community center. Festivalgoers can also enjoy the city’s new Preserve at District56 park that includes a large pond, a playground, and a nature preserve.

The festival made its unforgettable debut in 2019 when visitors braved a heavy rainstorm that lasted all afternoon and into the evening when the Parade of Lights was held. To make matters worse, the community center was still under construction and closed to the public.

Moreno told the Citizen that this year’s festival was moved indoors as a precaution against bad weather.

“We’re excited that we know there’s going to be nice weather, but it’s hard to predict,” she said. “The vendors are happy to be indoors.”

As of Nov. 30, the weather forecast is in the upper 50’s and a 3% chance of rain during the afternoon of Dec. 4 in Elk Grove.

After the festival, the Parade of Lights will start at the corner of Laguna Springs and Auto Passage drives, travel pass the District56 center, and then disband near the Elk Grove Aquatics Center.

Parade organizer, Lynden King told the Citizen there are currently 42 entries signed up for the parade. They include two bands, bicycle riders, vintage cars, a fire truck, and Santa. Viewers can also expect an army of Girl Scouts – King said that 500 scouts are expected to be there.  

This parade was originally a part of the Dickens Faire until the Elk Grove Community Council moved the event to the Illumination Holiday Festival two years ago.

The District56 community center is at 8230 Civic Center Drive. Moreno said that visitors will be required to wear masks when they enter the center. She added that the Elk Grove city staff will give away masks to anyone who stops by their booth and fills out a public survey.