ANNE EICKSTADT PHOTO Belvidere Republican
Despite the 23 degree weather, the horse-drawn carriage rides were a big hit at the Poplar Grove Tree Lighting Ceremony.

“This is our 9th Annual Tree Lighting ceremony,” said Eric Miller of the Poplar Grove Board of Trustees.

“Our magic number is 10 so next year will be special. We had the ceremony in the park for a few years but this is our second year having the party back in the village hall, which is so much easier.

“It has grown so much over the years that the park in the middle of town is not big enough to hold it. This is so much better. We will have 200-300 people here depending on the weather. It is colder than usual. State Sen. Dave Syverson is here for the festivities and we expect state Rep. Joe Sosnowski as well. Senator Chesney and Rep. LaHood cannot be here.

“We are trying to develop our community link to the greater community outside of Poplar Grove. They can provide resources for Poplar Grove so we can get more resources for this community and its residents.

“We are trying to make this event as popular as Neighbor’s Day to get the people of Boone County to attend because this is the place to be. Even though we are a smaller community, when you can see everyone come together and spend time with their neighbors and find hope at a time of year when people need it most. Winter months can be challenging for a lot of people

“We are stewards not only of financial matters but the stewards of hope. This event brings people together. It brings hope to the community and brings them hope over the winter months. It is another example that the board of trustees brings the community together, not just to sit up here and make decisions. We welcome residents into the village hall. We open up for everyone to see things on a more personal level.

“We do this event when we do so that we do not conflict with events in other communities. It makes all our communities stronger together and we consider each other. Santa made a special trip from the North Pole to be here. The Boone County Queen Mason McCoy and First Runner-up Dakota Schoberg are here helping as well. The Queen is sitting with Santa welcoming the kids and Dakota is assisting to collect funds for the food pantry.

“It’s wonderful seeing everyone here. Downtown has been sponsoring 10 local families each year and are doing it again this year. Stop by or send donations to the Poplar Grove Village Hall if you missed helping out tonight. We work with school districts and the Keen Age Center to find families and senior citizens in need. We try to deliver as many as we can. The board of trustees and vendors all donate. The more donations we get, the more families and senior citizens we can help.

“We have purchased playground equipment for Mansfield Park on the south of Saratoga Lane. We will construct it in the spring. The equipment was purchased with a grant from OSLAD – Open Spaces Land Acquisition and Development through the Dept. of Natural Resources. We have been working with the Belvidere Park District.”

The North Boone High School choir sang Deck the Halls just before Santa used his magic to light the tree. There were the traditional horse-drawn carriage rides by Ellingson’s Northern Star Farm, crafts, and hot chocolate and hot cider to go with the hot dogs, apple cider donuts, and popcorn available for everyone who attended.

“Happy holiday season,” Miller said.

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