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Downtown Evanston will kick-off the holiday season with the Holiday Bash & Tree Lighting on Friday.

Kids activities start at 4 p,m., with the tree lighting ceremony in Fountain Square at 5:30 p.m.

Merchants will have special offers and there’ll be storytelling, face painting, refreshments, live music and more in shops, cafes and restaurants.

The Evanston Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring trolley rides through the downtown area from 4 to 9 p.m. with students from the etc. Music School providing live entertainment from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. and again from 8 to 9 p.m.

Santa and Mrs. Claus will ride down Sherman Avenue on an Evanston fire truck at 5:30 p.m. for the tree lighting as the Second Baptist Church choir leads the crowd in Christmas carols, just before Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and Santa flip the switch and light up the tree in Fountain Square.

After the tree lighting Santa will visit with children on Maple Avenue outside Bennison’s Bakery at 1000 Davis St.

Mrs. Claus will be greeting visitors at Bravo Cucina Italiana, 1701 Maple Ave., from 4 to 5:30 p.m. and again from 6:30 to 9 p.m.

Several local musicians, musical organizations, dance groups and more will bring live performances to downtown Evanston during this kick-off celebration.

The Music Institute of Chicago and Northwestern a capella groups will provide musical entertainment at various downtown locations.

Several groups will host live performances at 812 Church St. (next to Levi’s) throughout the evening. From 4:45 to 5:15 p.m. etc. Music School will ring in the holiday season with unique arrangements of holiday classics as well as newly-composed songs for the season. At 6:30 and 7:15 p.m. Tierra y Luz de Mexico from St. Nicholas Church will perform traditional dances.

In the spirit of holiday giving, warm clothing essentials such as coats, socks, long underwear, gloves, hats, etc. will be accepted for donation to Hilda’s Place, Connections for the Homeless. Drop-off locations include Santa at 1000 Davis St., Mrs. Claus at 1701 Maple Ave. and 812 Church St. (next to Levi’s).

Free parking is available all day in the three main parking garages. More information is available online or by calling 847-866-6319.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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