Chester's annual Christmas on the River celebration, planned for Friday through Sunday promises something for everyone as Popeye takes a back seat to Santa as the hometown hero for a few days.

With a lighted parade, home tour, open houses at businesses and historic sites, a quilt show, fundraising dinners, bazaars and luncheons, arts and crafts sales, even carriage rides through the city's park ablaze with holiday lights, all three days are packed with activities and displays.

This year's theme is "I'll Be Home for Christmas."

Lighting of the Community Christmas Tree at 5 p.m. Friday in Chester Square Gazebo Park will mark the start of the holiday season. The program will include special music and a speaker, and announcement of winners of the storefront decorating and home lighting contests.

A lighted holiday parade is planned at 7 p.m. Saturday, beginning at Chester High School and winding its way through town to the courthouse. A number of businesses along the parade route will have open houses and refreshments.

Santa will be coming down the Mississippi River, courtesy of the Chester Boat Club and Chamber of Commerce.

His arrival on the riverfront is scheduled for 10 a.m. He'll be greeted by music from the Chester High School band, directed by Steve Colonel. Children will be able to visit Santa from 10 a.m. to noon at the Boat Club building. Refreshments will be served.

The annual Holiday Home Tour sponsored by St. Mary's Catholic School Parent-Teacher Organization, will be from 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday, with five homes included. Tickets are $10 and available at City Hall, Buena Vista Bank, Chester National Bank, First Bank in Chester and at Sharon's Heart of Gold and Sew Calico, both in Steeleville.

The Chester Municipal Band will present its traditional community Christmas program at 2 p.m. Sunday at Chester High School Juergens Gym.

Open houses are planned at the Memorial Hospital Gift Shop all three days, with gift items and decorations for sale. Chester Public Library will offer an art display by Mississippi Valley Artist Guild, will hold a used book sale, and will have craft supplies available for children to make ornaments. Hours will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the library, 733 State St.

A quilt show, sponsored by the Chester Tourism Commission, will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday in St. Mary's Catholic School gym, 825 Swanwick St. Admission is $1.

An arts and crafts sale is scheduled all three days, from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday in the Randolph County Courthouse, 1 Taylor St., with additional crafters at 619 State St. and at Skateland, 160 Taggart Lane. More than 50 vendors will be exhibiting their handiwork.

A Christmas tree display is planned from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at the Chester Firehouse, 1330 State St.

The Randolph County Museum and Archives Building, next to the courthouse, will have special historic displays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and noon to 3 p.m. Sunday.

An open house is planned from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Cohen Memorial Home, 523 W. Harrison St. A cookie sale will be held on Saturday only.

Also scheduled Friday is a chicken and dumpling supper from 4 to 7:30 p.m. at St. Mary's Catholic School cafeteria, 825 Swanwick St., sponsored by the PTO. And on Saturday, St. John Lutheran School, 224 W. Holmes St., will hold a bazaar and luncheon at the parish hall.

An Afternoon With Santa Christmas party will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday in the VFW Hall, 939 State St.

The Old Stone Cottage, a circa 1850 building at the corner of Taylor and Chestnut streets, will be decorated for the season by the tourism commission. Visitors are invited to drive by and see the decorations.

Smith's Landing on the Chester Riverfront also will be decorated for the holiday season in a project sponsored by the Chester Beautification Commission.

Drive-through tours of the holiday lights at Cole Memorial Park and the Memorial Drive at Evergreen Cemetery will be available from 5 to 9 p.m. all three nights, and the Memorial Drive at Evergreen Cemetery will be open from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

A different kind of drive-through also is available. Those wanting a taste of nostalgia can take horse-drawn carriage rides in Cole Memorial Park from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday for $1 per person.



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