Spreading holiday cheer in the West Loop
12/07/2011 10:00 PM
My family has nearly always had a real tree for Christmas. When I was a kid, we did everything from chopping one down in Wisconsin to crossing our alley and shopping at a local lot. But one way or another, it was our holiday tradition to go get a real tree and bring home some Christmas cheer.
Here in the West Loop, bringing home some Christmas Cheer is just as easy. B.A. Florist and Nursery on West Randolph Street has a great variety of real trees at surprisingly reasonable prices. You can walk home with the tree hoisted over your shoulder as a couple of my friends have done, or have them deliver and install it for you. They even offer taller trees perfect for our neighborhood’s higher loft ceilings.
Sprout on Chicago and Damen avenues and City Escape near Western Avenue on Lake Street are also local options. Or, you may happen to stumble across an appealing seasonal tree lot along the way. TreeSanta, based in the South Loop, is a tree delivery service. And for those of you who like to look at pretty things but don’t like the work that goes into them, they offer decoration services too.
Strapped precariously atop my Mini Cooper, I brought my tree home last Sunday. My boyfriend Brian and I risked the fate of A Charlie Brown Christmas by not shaking it out before buying it. We ended up with a great tree and only one endearing hole — the perfect spot for my large snowman ornament. The snowman is one of a few survivors from the box left after a thief made a mad dash through my building’s storage units last year.
The tree stands naked in the corner of my loft, waiting to be wrapped in lights and adorned with my mishmash of collected and hand-made ornaments. With the arrival of the tree, the discovery of the box, some homemade chili and a couple of winter ales, Christmas cheer officially arrived at the Mertens loft.
If getting a tree of your own isn’t in the cards this year, a couple of our parks will be starting neighborhood traditions and spreading holiday cheer with public displays. The Fulton River District Association had a lighting ceremony last weekend featuring the Skinner School Choir and hot chocolate donated by Starbucks. I am sorry to have missed it, but will be sure to head by the park at Kinzie Avenue and DesPlaines Street before the season is over.
Mary Bartelme Park’s Advisory Council is hosting the West Loop’s first annual Christmas tree and Menorah lighting ceremony this Saturday at 6:00 p.m. The Advisory Council is using donated funds to pay for the tree, Menorah, lights, decorations and installation which will be at the north end of the park. La Colombe Cafe is donating coffee and hot chocolate for the event.
Our neighborhood is also trying to set some traditions beyond those of trees and Menorahs. Community organizations, the 12th District Chicago Police Department and local businesses are all fostering the holiday spirit through community giving programs. The West Loop Community Organization is hosting a winter coat and food drive. New or gently used winter coats and non-perishable food items are being collected next Wednesday from noon until 1:00 p.m. at Mary Bartelme Park and Thursday from noon until 2:00 p.m. at the West Loop Community Organization’s offices, 1101 W. Adams St. The donations are headed to local non-profit organizations such as The Women’s Treatment Center on Ashland Avenue and Lake Street and Salvation Army’s Booth Manor on West Monroe Street.
Toys for Tots is a great holiday tradition embraced by our neighborhood. The Beer Bistro is supporting the charity by serving as a collection location. The big gift-wrapped box at the front of the bar is perfect for locals who drop in throughout the week for a drink or carryout, and also serves as a free ad for the program.
Chicagoland Toys for Tots has a neat tradition of its own which dates back to a Vietnam veteran’s one-man motorcycle parade in 1978. The annual parade now boasts thousands of gift-toting motorcyclists who gather to travel a sometimes five-hour route down Western Avenue from Dan Ryan Woods at 83rd Street to Addison Street at Lane Tech High School.
How do you find and spread holiday cheer throughout the West Loop? Visit www.chicagojournal.com to share your own traditions and community giving programs. Even if the thieves take the ornaments, they won’t get the cheer.