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‘It’s a Wonderful Lake Bluff’ to shine in 5th year on Saturday

ElizTarvi reads story Natalee Hoel during last year's 'It's Wonderful Life ... Lake Bluff.' This year's event is Saturday. |

Eliza Tarvi reads a story to Natalee Hoel during last year's "It's a Wonderful Life ... in Lake Bluff." This year's event is Saturday. | Sun-Times files

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“It’s a Wonderful Life ... in Lake Bluff!” will be Saturday, Dec. 7. Activities include businesses open for holiday shopping all day, and “Baby, it’s cold outside Hot Spiked Cider” available at Twenty East Cafe & Bar. Here is a schedule of additional events.

9:30 to 11:30 a.m.: Ornament-making, hot chocolate and cookies at Baytree National Bank

10 a.m. to noon: Holiday storytime with Library Elf at Lake Bluff Public Library

10 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Jenny Ratcliffe trunk show at Peg Ann Kompany

Noon to 2 p.m.: Visit with Santa at the Lake Bluff History Museum

Noon to 3 p.m.: Horse-drawn carriage rides courtesy of Lake Forest Bank and Trust and roasted chestnuts at the Scranton Alley

2 to 4 p.m.: Holiday face painting (up to age 8) at Clockworks

3 to 5 p.m.: Live reindeer and their elves on Village Green

3:30 to 4:30 p.m.: The Buckthorns perform seasonal favorites ending at Inovasi

4 p.m.: Drawing for a big, stuffed Frosty the Snowman at Voila!

5 p.m.: Gazebo lighting celebration on the Green sponsored by Kinnucan Co. featuring singers from Lake Bluff Middle School

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Updated: February 3, 2014 3:44PM

“It’s a Wonderful Life ... in Lake Bluff” — the family-friendly celebration in the downtown business district — will mark its fifth anniversary on Saturday, Dec. 7.

“It’s amazing that it’s been five years,” Peg Gronau, owner of Peg Ann Kompany, ADDRESS, said.

As it has since the first “It’s a Wonderful Life” in 2009, Gronau’s shop will feature a trunk show, this time by Highland Park jewelry designer Jenny Ratcliffe.

Gronau describes the day-long event, which starts at 9:30 a.m. with ornament-making, hot chocolate and cookies and culminates with a 5 p.m. lighting of the Gazebo and Christmas tree on the Village Green, as a great family activity that draws both residents and out-of-towners to downtown Lake Bluff.

“It’s just a wonderful thing for our town,” Gronau said. “I love it. It’s a fun, fun day.”

Attractions include strolling carollers, horse-drawn carriage rides, live reindeer on the Village Green, face-painting, roasted chestnuts, story time with Santa’s elves and visits with Santa.

Village Administrator Drew Irvin believes the Christmas-themed activities serve a special place in the village’s growing repertoire of events and are the reason for its continued success, but thinks it might be too soon to call “It’s a Wonderful Life” a Lake Bluff tradition.

“Five years — does that a tradition make?,’” Irvin said. “I don’t know, but it certainly seems to have some staying power.”

Like Gronau, Irvin thinks the fun-factor has played a large role in the event’s staying power and that, unlike an event such as the Fourth of July parade, the work does not rely on just one group to pull it off.

“This is an event that involves a little bit of effort from a lot of people,” he said. “It’s not all on one organization’s back to carry it. Everyone puts a little something into it — and it works.”

“It’s a Wonderful Life” involves collaboration of the Lake Bluff Downtown Merchants, the Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Chamber of Commerce, the Village of Lake Bluff, the Lake Bluff History Museum, the Lake Bluff Public Library and a number of businesses with special holiday discounts or offerings — like Peg Ann Kompany’s trunk show — or free carriage rides sponsored by Lake Forest Bank and Trust.

New this year, children from kindergarten through third grade can enter a contest to be Santa’s helper and actually flip the switch at the culminating Gazebo lighting.

“The contest is very simple,” Chamber Executive Director Joanna Rolek said. “Walk into any Lake Bluff store or eatery and fill out a form for a kindergartner through third grader. One child will be selected by the end of week and will be Santa’s helper on Saturday.”

Rolek believes the new opportunity will blend well with the growing following for “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

“Really, this is one of those wonderful collaborative efforts between all the merchants,” she said. “The intent was to create an enjoyable shopping experience in Lake Bluff and Lake Bluff celebrating itself at the holidays.”

The biggest hallmark of the event, she said: “Everyone is welcome to come.”

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