For Erin Petric, Home for the Holdays isn't just an event — it described her visit to her hometown for Thanksgiving.
Petric and her family gathered along Liberty Street Friday night for Home for the Holidays' annual Lighted Holiday Parade.
"Once you move away from a small town into the big suburbs, it's the little traditions like this that keep you coming back every single year and I wouldn't miss it," Petric, now a Hoffman Estates resident, said.
Crowds of locals braved the chilly night for the parade, with parents bundling their children up in hats, mittens, jackets and blankets. Some families waited in parked vehicles until the first vehicles started making their way from the courthouse to Chapin Park along the parade route.
Before the parade, Amanda and Orlando Alvera, both of Morris, and their children, Jocelyn, 10; Mia, 7; and Tristan, 5, could be found at the corner of Liberty and Main streets, with the three children bundled up in blankets on the curb.
Amanda said the family comes each year for one main reason.
"To see Santa Claus coming to town," she said.
Mia said it's exciting to see Santa because children can share what presents they'd like to receive.
"Because he's out asking people what they want for Christmas," she said.
Vehicles from first response agencies including the Morris Police Department, the Grundy County Sheriff's Department and Morris Fire and Ambulance Protection District, along with local veterans, led the parade. They were followed by businesses and groups.
Floats and participants in the parade ranged from Morris Community High School Redskin football players to Model A cars wrapped in lights and inflatable Christmas ornaments to children's characters like Dora the Explorer and Bob the Builder. Santa Claus was a crowd favorite — eliciting cheers and waves from the roadsides.
The parade came to an end in Chapin Park, where the stage was set for the park's lighting ceremony. After a group countdown, the lights were turned on, revealing a flurry of snowflakes suspended above the park.
After the parade, Petric said the event is a family favorite.
"We've come many years," she said.
Petric was with her parents, Janine and Joe Petric; aunt Sharon Corell of Ballwin, Mo.; sister Ellen Peterson, of Orland Hills; and Peterson's three sons, Matthew, 7, Andrew, 5, and Erik, 3.
Janine said she has several reasons for enjoying the event.
"(I like) the Christmas spirit and the family time and I love Christmas lights," she said. "I'm a little kid. I'm old, but I'm a little child at heart."
She said her grandsons enjoy seeing Santa Claus, of course. Each of the boys gave the parade a favorable review, saying it was awesome.
"I liked Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse," Andrew said.
"I liked all the characters," Matthew said.
"I liked all of the parts," Erik said.