With all of the cancellations this week due to bitter cold, high winds and snow, one event went on as planned: the Santa and Friends Express parade through the neighborhoods of Prospect Heights.
It’s become an annual tradition, a rare night time parade, thanks to a collaboration between the Prospect Heights Police Department, the Prospect Heights Fire Protection District, the Prospect Heights Public Library, and the Prospect Heights and River Trails park districts.
Each agency enters vehicles in the parade — think squad cars, trucks, and full size ladder and tanker trucks — decked out in holiday lights and with sirens blaring. Some even built floats, outfitted with inflatables and colorful holiday characters. Santa is the grand marshal of the parade, of course, and he was front and center Thursday night, waving to families. At the same time, residents are encouraged to have their own holiday decorations on full display, resulting in an interactive parade, filled with holiday lights and joy.
Prospect Heights firefighters have participated every year and their huge trucks, outfitted in colorful lights from top to bottom, are a highly anticipated part of the parade.
“Our members really enjoy spreading joy to the community,” says Fire Chief Drew Smith. “They spent several hours before the parade putting lights on the trucks to make things special.”
The firefighter/paramedics are a highly visible part of the community. Last year alone, they responded to more than 2,400 incident calls and this year they’re on track to reach 2,700.
Yet, building community with Prospect Heights residents — in non-emergency situations — continues to drive them. Every year, the district hosts an open house during fire prevention week in October, to share their life safety services in full detail. The district also created a Community Connect app for residents to update any information about their household or business that will aid firefighters when responding to an emergency.
But participating in the Santa and Friends Express parade was sheer fun, Smith says. No matter how severe the weather, brining Santa to families — and building community in the process — put everyone in the holiday spirit.