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Welcome to the first weekend in December, infamous in Bloomington-Normal as the most breathlessly event-intensive weekend of the holiday season.

Bar none. (Well, mostly none: next weekend isn't exactly silent night stuff either.)

We dare you not to find yourself pulled a half-dozen different directions at once ... in a good way.

Here’s our annual blow-by-blow account of the forces at play from Thursday through Sunday.


The first of no fewer than THREE local live "Nutcracker" events this weekend steps off at 6 p.m. in the Normal Theater: The Littlest Nutcracker, staged by The Uptown Dancers in a multimedia adaptation. Additional performances are 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with a 2 p.m. matinee Saturday.

Seasonal long-runners continuing Thursday through the weekend, and beyond, include the David Davis Mansion’s Christmas at Clover Lawn tours and the McLean County Arts Center’s Holiday Treasures Exhibition and Sale.


Downtown Bloomington’s monthly First Friday willingly gives itself over to the annual Once Upon a Holiday fete, with tonight’s events centering on the popular live window vignettes at participating downtown merchants and galleries, from 5 to 8 p.m. At 5:30 p.m., head over to Withers Park for the annual tree-lighting ceremony, complete with live carolers.

Then stroll on over to the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts at 7:30 p.m. as The Pantagraph’s Holiday Spectacular returns for its sweet 16th season.

Suit up: The Children's Discovery Museum in uptown Normal throws its annual Jammies & Jingles party from 6 to 8 p.m.

For those starry-eyed holiday revelers, the ISU Planetarium has come down to earth with Season of Light, focusing on winter solstice religions and rituals around the world. The presentation is at 7:30 p.m., followed by 2 and 7:30 p.m. encores Saturday. (Shows continue, same days/times, through Dec. 16.)

At the Normal Theater, Bill Murray's 1988 spin on "A Christmas Carol," Scrooged, screens at 8 p.m., followed by separately ticketed 10:30 p.m. showing of Elf with Will Ferrell. 


Launching Saturday’s heavy slate of activities is the annual Bloomington-Normal Jaycees Christmas Parade, stepping off at 10 a.m. at Kingsley Junior High School in Normal and wending its way southward to the downtown Bloomington square.

Part of the post-parade downtown fun is the McLean County Museum of History’s annual Christmas at the Courthouse, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and featuring live music by local groups, a Santa visit (noon to 3 p.m.), holiday treats, kids’ activities and more. Oh, and don't forget to hit up the Route 66 Visitors Center on the south side for your gifting needs.

More classic holiday fare at the Normal Theater, beginning with a 11 a.m.  matinee of the offbeat Christmas fable, We're No Angels, the 1955 original with Humphrey Bogart and Peter Ustinov. At 10:30 p.m., Scrooged gets an encore showing.

Naughty or nice, once or twice, get set to have your list checked: Uptown Normal's Santa Station opens its seasonal stand from 1 to 4:30 p.m. today, and continues through Christmas Eve. As part of the opening-day fun, there's a Santa-centric parade set for 12:30 p.m., ’round the festively adorned roundabout.

The second of the weekend's three local Nutcracker events arrives, via Twin Cities Ballet's lavish, longest-running edition, at 2 p.m. in ISU's Braden Auditorium (see interview with this year's Mother Ginger elsewhere in today's GO!).

Meanwhile, it's also Day 2 of Holiday Spectacular, with a 2 p.m. matinee at the BCPA.

The last of the weekend's trio of "Nutcracker" events, USA Ballet's Nutcracker Tea, is 3:30 to 5 p.m. Saturday, at the historic Vrooman Mansion in Bloomington. 

Illinois State University's most popular seasonal tradition, Music for the Holidays, returns in full festive force, complete with the ISU Symphony Orchestra and beau coup special vocal guests (Madrigal Singers, Belle Voix, Men's Glee, Women's Choir, Concert Choir). They ring in the weekend with performances at 3 and 7 p.m. in the Center for the Performing Arts on campus.

Also sounding off: the Brass Band of Central Illinois, with its annual holiday concert, at 7 p.m. in the Central Catholic High School Auditorium in Bloomington.


Wrapping it up today are the final performances of Holiday Spectacular, 2 p.m. in the BCPA; Twin Cities Ballet's The Nutcracker, 2 p.m. in Braden Auditorium; ISU's Music for the Holidays, 3 p.m. in the Center for the Performing Arts.

Bloomington-Normal's Tea Ladies check in with their annual holiday tea, Victorian Christmas Splendor, with two seatings, at 1 and 4 p.m. in Bloomington's historic Vrooman Mansion (reservations are required at 309-827-2200).

At the Normal Theater, Elf gets an encore showing at 7 p.m.


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