Downtown Evanston will kick-off the holiday season with the tree lighting celebration at Fountain Square on Friday.

The event starts with a performance by the Evanston Children’s Choir at 5 p.m. Then Santa and Mrs. Claus will ride down Sherman Avenue on an Evanston fire truck to flip the switch and light the tree at 5:30 p.m.

After the tree lighting, WaaMu, Northwestern University’s oldest musical theatre production, will provide a music and theatre performance, and there’ll be a chance to meet Chicago Cubs mascot Clark and Chicago White Sox mascot Southpaw.

From 6 to 7:30 p.m., Santa will visit with children at The Merion, 1611 Chicago Ave., and Mrs. Claus will be at The Spice & Tea Exchange, 1615 Sherman Ave.

Southpaw will be at Epic Burger until 6:45 p.m. and Clark will be at  Fountain Square.

Sponsor NorthShore University HealthSystem will provide hot cocoa at Fountain Square. In addition, you can warm up with hot cocoa and enjoy other special treats at downtown shops and restaurants including Lumen Optical, 809 Church St.; Ayla’s Originals, 1511 Sherman Ave.; Smylie Brothers Brewing Co., 1615 Oak Ave.; Holiday Inn Chicago North-Evanston, 1501 Sherman Ave., and Andy’s Frozen Custard, 719 Church St..

In the spirit of holiday giving, warm clothing essentials such as coats, socks, gloves, hats, etc. will be accepted for donation to Connections for the Homeless between 4:30 and 7:30 pm at The Merion, Epic Burger and The Spice & Tea Exchange.

Free parking is available at the Sherman Plaza, Maple Avenue and Church Street parking garages on weekdays from 5 p.m. to midnight and all day on Saturday and Sunday through Jan. 2.

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