Downtown Dayton will celebrate 49 years of the holiday season during the month-long Dayton Holiday Festival, which kicks off with the Grande Illumination and Dayton Children’s Parade Spectacular in Lights from 4 to 9 pm Friday, Nov. 26. Courthouse Square will be the center of the evening full of family entertainment.
Activities planned for the day include the Grande Illumination tree-lighting ceremony, along with live musical entertainment on the main stage, the Street Fair on Third, fun children’s activities in the Holiday Village on Second Street outside Stratacache Tower, the Junior League of Dayton’s Holiday Adventure, horse-drawn wagon rides, photos with live reindeer, and a gingerbread house display in the Old Courthouse. The suggested cost for wagon rides is $1 per person, but all other activities are free.
The tree-lighting ceremony will take place at 7:55 p.m. on Courthouse Square, followed immediately by the Dayton Children’s Parade Spectacular in Lights. Thousands of lights will illuminate the 45-minute parade, featuring a variety of festive floats, entertainers, animals and several surprises.
Extra precautions have been taken for this year’s Dayton Holiday Festival in order to allow in-person gathering in the safest way possible. The vast majority of the festival’s activities will take place outdoors this year. Guests are encouraged to wear masks covering the mouth and nose, and free masks with festive holiday designs also will be available at the festival for attendees to wear.
“The Grande Illumination and Dayton Children’s Parade Spectacular in Lights is a great night for the family to come downtown,” said Sandy Gudorf, president of the Downtown Dayton Partnership. “The past couple of years have been difficult for all of us, but we are so happy to be able to gather again safely this year to kick off the holiday season together as a community. It will truly be a magical night guaranteed to put you in the holiday spirit.”
Those unable to attend this year’s festivities in person can still enjoy the holiday kickoff by tuning in to WHIO-TV at 7:30 pm on Nov. 26 to watch the Grande Illumination TV special and tree lighting live on television.
The Dayton Holiday Festival continues throughout the month of December with Holiday Family Fun Days and other holiday fun, featuring such activities as the Family Movie Series at The Neon, Virginia Kettering’s Holiday Train Display at Stratacache Tower, the Rike’s animated window displays in the Schuster Center Wintergarden, the Whimsical Windows storefront decorating contest throughout downtown, ice skating at the MetroParks Ice Rink at RiverScape, photos with Santa, and more. Returning this year is Downtown Jingle Lights – an expanded version of last year’s new and popular interactive holiday light show. Drive along Main Street, Third Street, and Monument Avenue evenings through January 1, and tune to 97.1 FM to see downtown streets transformed into an interactive, drive-thru light show, choreographed to the beat of your favorite holiday tunes!
Grande Illumination & Dayton Children’s Parade Spectacular in Lights Schedule
- Grande Illumination ― The tree-lighting ceremony will take place at 7:55 p.m. on Courthouse Square. Media sponsor: WHIO-TV
- Dayton Children’s Parade Spectacular in Lights– Starts immediately following the Grande Illumination. The route: West Second Street to Main Street, south on Main Street to Fourth Street, and then west on Fourth Street. LED parade lights sponsored by NECA/IBEW Electrical Professionals.
- Live reindeer photo station — Take a family photo with a sleigh and live reindeer. It’s unique and fun way to capture your memories of the Grande Illumination and Parade!
- Main Stage Entertainment ― Enjoy live entertainment on the Courthouse Square stage. Performances begin around 4 p.m. The schedule is:
- 4:00-4:25 p.m. – Viva La Strings
- 4:30-4:55 p.m. – Queen Amazon
- 5:05-5:30 p.m. – Berachah Valley
- 5:40-6:05 p.m. – Joe Waters
- 6:15-6:40 p.m. – Gwen Brown
- 6:50-7:15 p.m. – Alexis Gomez
- 7:25-7:50 p.m. – Dayton Celebration Chorus
- Magic Glasses ― Look for volunteers passing out these special glasses on Courthouse Square prior to the tree lighting, or pick up a pair at any information station.
- Gingerbread Homes for the Holidays ― View all the delicious contest entries and the award-winning houses, and vote for your favorite, located inside the old Montgomery County courthouse.
- The Holiday Village ― Located on Second Street outside the Stratacache Tower from 4 to 9 p.m., this is a favorite stop for children, featuring free activities for kids and Mrs. Virginia Kettering’s train on display.
- Street Fair on Third- ― At this holiday street fair, free rides and other activities will be set up on Third Street between Main and Ludlow streets.
- Horse-Drawn Wagon Rides ― From 4 to 7:30 p.m., wagons will pick up passengers near the corner of Second and Main streets for a ride through downtown. Rides are $1 per person suggested donation. Lines can be long, so come early.
- Junior League of Dayton’s Holiday Adventure, sponsored by Wright-Patt Credit Union – Kids will go on an adventure around the festival footprint, presented by the Junior League of Dayton. Children who visit all the stops will receive a free book.
- Rike’s Holiday Windows – Located inside the Schuster Center Wintergarden, experience a reimagining of the Rike’s department store holiday window displays that once stood at this busy downtown corner.
- Downtown Jingle Lights – Along Main Street, Third Street, and Monument Avenue, see downtown streets transformed into an interactive, drive-thru light show, choreographed to the beat of your favorite holiday tunes! Tune your radio to 97.1 FM as you drive the route throughout the holiday season.
- Ice Skating – The MetroParks Ice Rink at RiverScape MetroPark opens for the season on Nov. 26.