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Griffith to hold first Festival of Lights

Bob Vickers Griffith Josh Pearey 17 Griffith move backdrop be used Saturday for 'The Nutcracker' during an openhouse FranklCenter Griffith.|

Bob Vickers of Griffith and Josh Pearey, 17 of Griffith move the backdrop to be used Saturday for 'The Nutcracker" during an openhouse at the Franklin Center in Griffith.| Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media

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If you go

The town of Griffith will hold its inaugural “Festival of Lights” from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Tree decorating at Main and Broad streets and in front of Town Hall will take place between 2:30 and 4:30; the Franklin Center open house will follow immediately after, with an abbreviated performance of the “The Nutcracker” at 7 p.m. Franklin Center visitors will use the Griffith Boulevard entrance on the building’s west side. Admission is free.

Updated: January 2, 2013 6:09AM



GRIFFITH — Residents are invited downtown Saturday to usher in the holiday spirit even if the near 60-degree temperature feels more like baseball weather than the kind conducive to dashing through the snow.

Imagine Griffith, in conjunction with the Franklin Center, Rotary Club and other entities, will host its first-ever Festival of Lights downtown. Horse-and-carriage rides, carols and a performance of “The Nutcracker” will round out an afternoon that seeks to introduce folks to all the Franklin Center has to offer as well as entice them to support local businesses.

The event came together quite serendiptously, its organizers agree. Carl Zurbriggen, executive director for the Griffith YMCA, and other tenants in Franklin Center, 201 N. Griffith Blvd., were talking about doing something to introduce everyone to the goings-on there.

“Since we’re all fairly new here, a lot of people don’t know what happened (to the former elementary school),” he said. “We thought Christmas time would be a great time for an open house, so we piggybacked on what the town was doing.”

Imagine Griffith chairwoman Valerie Wotkun said she’d heard through the grapevine the center was planning an event and saw a great opportunity to not only promote the center but other downtown businesses, too.

“There’s this whole idea of ‘Shop Local,’ so we wanted to include the other businesses so people can see what our shops have to offer. We didn’t want it to be just hanging ornaments on a tree,” she said.

There’ll be plenty of that, however, as Imagine Griffith will put up two Christmas trees — one at the corner of Main and Broad Streets, and one outside Town Hall — for those who just can’t get enough of decorating. The Griffith High School Pep Band will provide the holiday soundtrack, and carollers will be lined up as well.

Once the trees have been lit and hot chocolate’s been consumed, people can head on over to Franklin and participate in mini-classes held by the YMCA and South Shore Dance Alliance, the latter of which will feature its dancers performing excerpts from “The Nutcracker” using both the Tchaikovsky and Duke Ellington versions of the beloved ballet, said SSDA Creative Director Larry Brewer.

Brewer said he’d approached Zurbriggen about doing something for the community, and it all fell into place from there.

“It’s Christmas, so we wanted to show appreciation for the warm welcome we’ve received,” Brewer said. “We want to help the town celebrate, and this all played out really well.”



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