Eureka College's Student Magazine Since 1889

The Eureka College Pegasus

Eureka College's Student Magazine Since 1889

The Eureka College Pegasus

Eureka College's Student Magazine Since 1889

The Eureka College Pegasus

East Peoria Kicks Off Holiday Season with Parade of Lights

Merik Flatt-Beer

Every year the city of East Peoria puts on a dazzling display. The festival of lights takes place in mid-November. It’s kicking off with a parade that tours the city and ends in Veteran’s park, where the floats find their new home until January. The event brings in thousands of people from all over to view this beautiful event.

The festival of lights, also known as FOLEPI (Festival of Lights, East Peoria, Illinois- also the name of the festival’s mascot), started in 1984 as a nighttime parade, as a one-time event. The event was so loved by the community that the event organizers quickly got to work planning the next event. The accompanying drive-thru festival didn’t make an appearance until 1993.

The Veteran’s Park display is joined by Henrick’s star overlooking the city. The star started as a Ferris wheel with fluorescent lights attached to it, but it has since been updated to be made in the same manner as the rest of the floats in the festival. The FOLEPI guide credits it as the community’s favorite.

While there isn’t a recorded history of the yearly floats, last year there were 38 floats adorned with a combined total of over 572 thousand lights. The largest float, the Steam Train, has 65 thousand lights on its own.

The festival saw a surge in popularity in the 2020 season, when ABC aired their heavyweights episode of The Great Christmas Light Fight, where displays put on by cities and organizations were pitted against each other to compete for the top spot. East Peoria’s own took first place, blowing the show’s host away with the incredible parade that we all know and love. You can watch a clip here.

This year, the parade took place on Saturday, November 18, with thousands of spectators from all over. The impressive display featured 40 floats and even was lucky enough to have the Budweiser Clydesdales showing off their beautiful selves. The drive through display is set to open Friday, November 24.

In the past, the drive has brought in over 25 thousand cars, easily surpassing an estimated 100 thousand viewers taking in the gorgeous display. It is one of the city’s largest tourism events and brings a significant amount of revenue not only to the city, but into the many shops, hotels, and restaurants in the area.

Rebecca, a resident of Washington, was excited to bring her kids to see the parade for the first time. Her family shows the sentiment echoed by many who braved the cold to see the lights.

“It’s something we’ve done since we were kids,” Rebecca said.

Kyle, from Peoria, agreed, saying,

“I always came when I was a kid, I loved Santa Clause at the end. One time, he looked straight at me, and said, ‘You better be good!’ It went right to my heart,” Kyle, from Peoria, said.

Aaron, coming all the way from Wisconsin to see the parade, said it was a great way to kick off the holiday season.

The only critique? Bring back Folepi’s Forest! After a two year hiatus, the city of East Peoria is bringing back the experience. The city cites ongoing construction in the levee district as well as a national shortage of Christmas trees as being prohibitory the last couple of years. The Enchanted Forest will be open the entire month of December, from 5-9 p.m. nightly.

However, the festival isn’t only beautiful lights and Christmas cheer. For the residents of Springfield Road, the road that Veteran’s Park is situated on, this time of year is almost uniquely obstructive to their day-to-day life. It is rivaled only by the yearly yard sale event in the summer.

“The traffic is terrible!” Toni, a resident of Springfield Road for 15 year said

In the past, the city has done little to organize the flow of traffic coming off the interstate and up Springfield hill. It can cause complete stops and no flow-through for over a mile, obstructing traffic even on Main Street. Some attempts to control the queue have been made.

“People can’t read the signs that say to stay in the center lane… But, it’s a good opportunity for the city of East Peoria to bring in extra revenue, and it’s a classic experience that everyone loves. It’s part of who we are as a community,” Toni said.

Even while the event can be a hassle for some this time of year, it is seen as a worthwhile venture. CIProud overage of the event can be found here.

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Merik Flatt-Beer
Merik Flatt-Beer, Staff Contributor

Merik Flatt-Beer (East Peoria, IL) is a senior majoring in Psychology and Hispanic Studies. They have a special interest in regional culture, and feel very strongly about local policy, and workers and students rights. When they’re not writing or studying, they’re probably playing old Wii games.