McKinley Park

BY CAITLIN ABLE

McKinley Park will be the home of Brook’s first annual Hometown Christmas, which will feature ice sculptures, hayrides, and pictures with Santa.

BROOK — The community and businesses are coming together on Saturday, Dec. 4 to hold the town’s first annual Hometown Christmas in McKinley Park.

The event will feature a multitude of free activities that the community can participate in, including wagon rides, pictures with Santa, and ornament crafts. Food will be provided for the event, and guests are welcome to hot chocolate, coffee, donut holes, chili and hot dogs.

This year’s iteration of the Hometown Christmas is not the town’s first attempt to come together for the holiday season.

“Last year, you know, it was such a ‘blech’ year,” said Marilyn Ekstrom, a member of the planning committee. “We had wanted to do something special, but then the COVID numbers were getting up. We were excited by the idea, so we decided we’d do it this year.”

Members of the Brook United Methodist Church who had previously assisted in planning the Cookie Walk are helping with aspects of the Hometown Christmas, working in conjunction with members of the town board, the local library, and local businesses. A full list of participating organizations will be provided following the event.

The Brook-Iroquois Township Volunteer Fire Department will be participating in the holiday event by hosting s’more stations in the park. The town board of Brook made a donation to the planning committee, as well as making arrangements to have electricity added to McKinley Park to allow lights to be strung through the area.

“I feel like every week, at our meetings, there’s someone new from the community wanting to do something,” said Matt Baughman, pastor of Brook United Methodist Church. “The town is all for it. They’re the ones who are paying for the electricity and the lights, and individual businesses or donors are chipping in for various things.”

The planning committee admitted inspiration for the event had been taken from media such as Gilmore Girls or Hallmark movies, which affected the activities they had planned and reservations made with entertainment.

“We even tried to get a horse and carriage, so there could be a carriage ride,” said Baughman. “We couldn’t find one, but if we could’ve, we would’ve.”

Activities will begin at 2 p.m. in McKinley Park and will continue until 4 p.m., when daylight begins to fade. Participants will be able to decorate cookies and create ornaments at different stations, and Christmas hayrides will be available. A station will be set up for children to write letters to Santa and send them off.

Guests are also invited to participate in a gingerbread house contest. The contest has two divisions, for youth up to age 16 and for adults from 16-116, according to the event’s Facebook page. No prior registration is required, but all houses must be presented at McKinley Park between 1:30 and 1:50. Further rules for the contest can be found on the event’s Facebook page.

The winners of the gingerbread house contest will be announced by the event MC, Matt Beasley, between 4:30 and 5:00.

At 4 p.m., the activities will close as the sun begins to set, and a parade of golf carts decorated with Christmas lights and other accoutrement will make its way down the main street in Brook. The golf carts will be driven by members of the community who wished to participate in the event and bring in some holiday spirit.

A key event of the festivities is centered on an evergreen that was planted in McKinley Park following the removal of a dead tree in 2020. “The idea behind this is that it will become an annual event,” explained Baughman. “We’re getting a wooden height chart so kids can get their picture taken next to the growing tree every year. ABC Preschool will also be doing a photo booth out there.”

“With this little one, we’re getting a wooden height chart, and we’ll put it there so kids can get their picture taken next to the growing tree every year. ABC Preschool will be doing a photo booth out there.”

A rain check has been set for Sunday, Dec. 5, with alternate activities planned.

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