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.