East Peoria’s Festival of Lights has a Bright Season Ahead

Festival of Lights_CREDIT Straublund Photography hr

The East Peoria’s Festival of Lights has been running strong for 28 years and has become one of Illinois’ must-see attractions of the holiday season. But how did this luminous display start in the first place?

If we look back to the year 1985, the economy was down and so were people’s spirits. At the time, East Peoria had a Holiday Inn and the manger was from Niagara Falls. He talked about how the Falls used to have a lighted display and it was something people loved to visit. In order to lift the spirits in a time when it was most needed, East Peoria put together lighted floats and paraded them down the street. This also marked the first night time parade in the area. With uneasy feelings whether anyone would even show up to the parade, thoughts of hosting another parade were far from their minds. “Everyone thought this would be a one year thing.” says Jill Peterson, Public Relations Coordinator for the City of East Peoria. “But it went so well that while in the middle of the parade, everyone started talking about what they were going to do next year.”

Here we are 28 years later and the Festival of Lights is attracting families from all over Illinois to travel and see this lighted spectacle. The Folepi’s Winter Wonderland drive-thru display will open on Thanksgiving night, November, 22 and remain open through December 31.

There are other events which are taking place this year to round out the Festival of Lights. The 22nd Annual Folepi’s River Trail Classic, which is to be held on November 24, is a four mile competitive run and two mile non-competitive walk. The River Trail is open to men, women and children of all ages. Likewise, the 12th Annual Get Lit New Year’s Eve Fun Run through Folepi’s Winter Wonderland will take place on Monday, December 31. This non-competitive walk or run through the light display is a great way to kick off the New Year. For details about any of these events please visit, www.cityofeastpeoria.com.

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Locking in For the Peoria Rivermen Hockey 2012-13 Season

The scraping of skates across the ice, the slap of the stick, the thud of bodies hitting the boards and then, all of a sudden, the crowd goes wild and the train horn blares, signaling a goal. The sounds of a live Peoria Rivermen hockey game are those that can’t be matched. Since the 1982-83 season, the Peoria Rivermen have been in continuous operation, making them one of the longest running minor league hockey teams in North America.

Peoria RivermenThe Peoria Rivermen are the American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate of the NHL’s St. Louis Blues. With the current NHL lockout the Blues have sent their 2-way prospects to the AHL so the players can have a place to play and develop during the lockout, according to Brendan Burke, Director of Communications for the Peoria Rivermen. The St. Louis Blues have already sent 25 players to Peoria. Some of the 25 players include Andrew Murray, Adam Cranknell, Jake Allen and Mike McKenna. “No doubt [a lockout] is bad for hockey,” says Burke, “but the silver lining is that the games in Peoria are going to get better. Every team is going to get better and it’s going to make it more fun for fans to watch the games.”

The Peoria Rivermen, however, are an impressive AHL team without an NHL lockout. “We have had over 55 different players that played for both the Rivermen and the Blues in the same season since 2005,” says Burke. Those are some busy boys! This means that these players are playing at the AHL level and the NHL, respectively, when they are needed. If an injury occurs at the NHL level, the Blues would pull a player from the Rivermen to fill in, and that’s a great opportunity.

Watching hockey on T.V. is one way to experience the game, but it’s a totally different feel watching a game live. “Hockey never stops; its 100 miles per hour the whole game,” says Burke. “Start to finish.” The Rivermen have interactive activities in which fans can participate throughout the game, as well as free prizes thrown into the stands by the Avanti’s Ice Girls. You can also find Barry the blue bear mascot at every Rivermen home game supporting the team and interacting with fans. Rivermen hockey games are fun, fast-paced and have a ton of action. “There is something special to a live game,” states Burke. “Peoria is lucky; not many cities have an opportunity to have an AHL team so conveniently close.” Burke’s advice is, “if you have never been to a game, you got to try it.”

You have 31 chances to watch the Rivermen in action at home this season, with their first regular season home game October 19 at 7:05 p.m. in the Peoria Civic Center’s Carver Arena. For all ticket and schedule information visit, http://www.rivermen.net/.