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Area residents of Danville, Mahomet, Monticello and Rantoul will get a taste of Christmas cheer this weekend, while for Gibson City the fun takes place next weekend.

Santa Claus is quite the multitasker. He will be at all the locations, sometimes at the same time.

Here's a look at some of what's happening around the area:

DANVILLE

Close to 50 floats are scheduled to step off in the Night of Lights Parade beginning at 6 p.m. today.

“Our town loves this parade. It’s a staple event,” said Ashton Greer, Danville community relations administrator.

Also:

— From 1-5 p.m. today, complementary horse-drawn carriage rides will be available. A holiday bazaar with more than 20 craft vendors will run from noon-8 p.m. today and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday at the county administration building.

— On Saturday, Santa will be available in his sleigh for visits from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Temple Plaza.

— At 3 p.m. Saturday, the Danville Barbershop Chorus will present a concert of Christmas favorites at the Fischer Theatre in downtown Danville.

The concert will feature classic Christmas carols, a couple of Christmas spirituals and favorites such as “Frosty the Snowman” and “Winter Wonderland."

Two quartets will also be featured performing a couple of songs apiece.

MAHOMET

There will be Christmas activities all three days this weekend, sponsored by the Mahomet Area Chamber of Commerce.

Tonight, a Christmas market with local businesses and vendors will be open from 5 to 8, with Santa due to arrive downtown on a fire truck at 6.

“He will walk up to his little home located by the village offices. He’ll see kids there,” said Walter Pierce, the chamber's executive director.

There will also be horse-drawn carriage rides and a lighted Christmas arch tunnel on the sidewalk from the village offices and down Jefferson Street.

“Just south of that is about 80 wooden trees and snowmen that businesses have either painted themselves or the chamber painted,” Pierce said. “They will be on display Friday night.

“Many businesses downtown will be open for hot chocolate or chocolate chip cookies or free slices of pie.”

Happening the rest of the weekend:

— On Saturday, local businesses and vendors will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. downtown.

Almost 200 children have signed up for donuts with Santa during several time slots at Mahomet-Seymour High School.

A children’s shop will be held at Yo Yo’s, where youngsters can buy gifts for their parents and siblings, with the help of an elf.

From 6-8 p.m., Santa, Mrs. Claus and the elves will be on hand for a drive-thru visit near village hall.

— On Sunday, a children’s shopping time is available from noon to 6 p.m. at Yo Yo’s.

MONTICELLO

The busy holiday weekend kicks off at 4 p.m. today, with the Monticello Area Arts Council's Mini Christmas Tree Festival at the Livingston Center.

Also Friday, each hour starting at 5 p.m., Allerton Park and Retreat Center will hold its annual Holiday Showcase and Holiday Glow Opening Night. The Holiday Glow will continue from 5-9 p.m. Dec. 4-23, Dec. 27-30, Jan. 7-8 and Jan. 14-15. No tickets are required (except for Dec. 3), donations will be collected.

Happening from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday: Willow Tree Missions' Christmas Extravaganza sale, including Christmas decor, bake sale items, craft vendors and personalized ornaments.

At 11:30 a.m. Saturday, it's the Monticello Chamber of Commerce Christmas Parade, with this year's theme being “A Hometown Christmas.”

RANTOUL

The Light Up Rantoul Christmas Parade and other activities are on tap tonight downtown.

The parade lineup begins at 5:15 p.m., with the staging area on Congress Avenue by the high school. The parade will head north on Chanute Street and then east on Sangamon Avenue to downtown.

Photos with Santa can be taken beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the Kesler building at 112 E. Sangamon Avenue.

Santa’s workshop, featuring children’s crafts, will be open at 120 E. Sangamon Ave.

Horse-and-carriage rides will also be available beginning at 6:30 p.m.

GIBSON CITY

Coming next weekend: a stationary lighted parade, an event honoring local heroes, business-related activities, horse-and-carriage rides and ice skating.

"Christmas Salute" is the theme of the annual Christmas celebration, sponsored by Gibson Area Chamber of Commerce on Dec. 10-11.

The events begin next Friday evening, with a stationary lighted parade in the city’s North Park from 5 to 9:30 p.m.

Last year was the first year the chamber opted for a drive-thru parade, and it was hugely successful, according to organizers. This year, there will be quite a few additional lighted displays, and the hope is that this event will continue to grow each year.

As parade-goers exit the park, they will be directed to leave heading south down Sangamon Avenue, where additional activities will be going on in the downtown area.

There will be Christmas music, warming fire pits, Santa will be greeting children at Hood’s Ace Hardware, Jay’s Place serving adult hot chocolate and other Christmas spirits.

On Saturday, Dec. 11, many businesses and restaurants will be hosting events and/or specials.

A full list of those will be listed the week before and posted on the event’s Facebook page “Gibson City’s Lighted Christmas Parade.”

People will want to plan for a couple of activities next Saturday, as well.

A hero event is set for 2 p.m. in which the community takes the opportunity to recognize many emergency response personnel who have been important to the community this year.

Following that, there will be horse-and-carriage rides available in the downtown from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Students in the Prairieland CEO program have chosen to add to the chamber’s celebration with an ice skating event.

The rink, which can fit about 50 people at time, will have synthetic ice.

Prairieland CEO is a high school class that provides entrepreneurial learning opportunities to students from Gibson City, Fisher and Paxton. It is a private program funded by the local businesses of the three communities.

Students, who earn high school credit for completing the program, are tasked with coming up with a “business” to earn money as a group that will then fund individual projects later in the year. The ice skating rink was their selection.

The chamber is encouraging those coming to enjoy the Christmas celebration to take time to drive through town to view participating homes in the house-decorating contest.

Our County Editor

Dave Hinton is editor of The News-Gazette's Our County section and former editor of the Rantoul Press. He can be reached at dhinton@news-gazette.com.

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