Oregon got the holiday season off to a fine start Nov. 24 when what appeared to be a record crowd packed the downtown for the sights, sounds, food, and bargains of the 26th annual Candlelight Walk.
Youngsters lined up in front of the Coliseum and watched as Santa Claus turned on the Christmas tree lights with a hearty "Ho, ho, ho!" to officially kick off the event.
Candlelight Walk Committee member Deb Leffelman was delighted with the crowd and the event.
"I thought the whole thing was fabulous," she said Monday. "The photos with Santa, the balloon artist, and carriage rides were all really popular. I think the weather got that holiday spirit moving."
Mother Nature did her part, providing clear skies and brisk but not frigid temperatures.
A new feature this year, the Candy Cane Corner on the former Bemis Ford parking lot at Fourth and Franklin Streets, made a hit with the crowd, Leffelman said.
The corner included Santa's hut, the Oregon Lion's Club food stand, and a snowshoe demonstration booth set up by the Oregon Park District.
"I think the addition of the Candy Cane Corner brought out a lot of people," Leffelman said.
At the Coliseum, vendors were doing a brisk trade, while youngsters performed on the stage.
Heidi Meacham, Marengo, said sales were strong at her booth, which offered wood crafts.
"We're doing well," she said. "We're selling and making a profit and it's early."
Shoppers crowded into Conover Square to visit shops and listen to live music from a string sextet, organ, and guitar.
Upstairs a line of visitors waited to see the Blackhawk Model Railroad Club's display.
On Fourth Street Cindy Bunger could barely see over the shoppers lined up at her counter at the Flower Patch.
"A good crowd? I think so," she said with a grin.
Howie Herman, Mt. Morris, was checking out the collectibles at Monica's What Not Shop on Washington Street.
"I'm enjoying the evening," he said. "It's a good crowd and everyone is having a good time."
Shop owner Monica Matheny said business had been steady throughout the evening.
"We've been hopping," she said.
Dee and John Andree, Rockford, drove down for the evening after hearing about it from a friend.
They were browsing through the collectibles at the Flamingo Palace on Third Street.
"It's great to see all the new stores that have opened up," said Dee, who grew up in Oregon. "I loved the Coliseum and the music, the carriage rides and the luminaries. It's great to see everyone out."