At precisely 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 24, the flip of a switch will light thousands of twinkling lights, officially kicking off the beginning of the holiday season in Woodstock. Festivities will begin at 5 p.m. and continue until 9 p.m.

Thousands are expected to gather to celebrate the Lighting of the Square, a favorite local holiday tradition. The evening will include many favorite staples that regulars have come to know, as well as some new additions that promise to make the evening memorable and family-friendly.

“[The Lighting of the Square] is important from the city’s perspective because it offers a way to give back to the people,” said Krista Coltrin, of economic development coordinator for the city of Woodstock.

She said the theme for this year is all about family and charity. The addition of two children’s activities centers and a partnership with a variety of nonprofits support the theme.

Coltrin said the city has arranged to use two vacant retail spaces on the Square to host children’s activities and nonprofit organizations. Santa’s Workshop will be located at 100 Cass St., where volunteers from Wonder Works Children’s Museum will offer face painting. Rudolph’s Retreat, 136 Cass St., will host crafts, story time and Dick Tracy activities.

All visitors will be able to enjoy Elf Escape, a heated, lit tent on East Jackson Street near the former BMO Harris Bank, showcasing area not-for-profits offering items for sale and opportunities to make donations. A heated, portable restroom trailer will be located near the tent.

Outdoor food options will include: Your Sister’s Tomato food truck, serving wood-fire baked pizzas; along with a Pixie Dawg food cart; and Lucky Bernie’s and Rendezvous Bistro serving finger foods in Elf Escape. Hot apple-cider and donuts will be served at the Spring House on the Square.

Students, community members and members of the Woodstock Community Choir will present the musical backdrop for the Lighting. This year, for the first time, the choir will be under the direction of Cassandra Vohs-Demann, following the retirement of longtime director Paul Rausch.

“Paul approached us about [directing the choir for the lighting],” said Vohs-Demann. “It’s very cool, but a little stressful in a good way. Paul’s been doing this for so long.”

The group has been practicing weekly during November, and Vohs-Demann said everyone involved is very excited. They will be singing from risers on the bandstand, and, a new sound system will allow them to be heard clearly throughout the Square.

The Lighting of the Square will include traditional favorites such as the Woodstock Opera House Annual Christmas Tree Walk, open after the lighting, Santa and Mrs. Claus in their hut on the Square and the Gingerbread House Walk at the Old Courthouse.

Coltrin estimated the event draws at least 3,000 visitors annually.

“We hope to continue to grow the event,” she said.

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