TONIGHT: Get ready for the kickoff to the holiday season in downtown Dayton

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

The official kickoff to the holidays in downtown Dayton is making up for lost time this season.

Last year’s Dayton Holiday Festival was originally planned to happen in a drive-thru style, but further COVID-19 developments cancelled the festivities completely. Downtown Dayton Partnership President Sandy Gudorf said everyone is really excited about the return of an in-person celebration for the festival’s 49th year.

“We have taken lots of precautions,” Gudorf said. “Most of the indoor activities, not all, but most, have been moved outside. So, people need to bundle up because we’re not going to have those indoor warming spaces. We’re just so excited the community will be able to gather again.”

The DDP will also pass out some fun, free holiday face masks to attendees.

The highlight of the evening, the Grande Illumination Tree Lighting, is scheduled to take place at 7:55 p.m. sharp tonight, Nov. 26. When the switch is flipped, 50,000 colored lights will illuminate the three-story-tall tree on Courthouse Square, located at Third St. and Main St.

Immediately following the tree lighting at approximately 8 p.m., the Dayton Children’s Parade Spectacular in Lights will begin by rounding the corner of Second and Main to start its route through downtown.

Ahead of the tree lighting, the Dayton Holiday Festival will begin at 4 p.m. with songs and other live entertainment on the Courthouse Square Main Stage.

Main Stage lineup:

4 p.m. to 4:25 p.m. – Viva La Strings

4:30 p.m. to 4:55 p.m. – Queen Amazon

5:05 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. – Berachah Valley

5:40 p.m. to 6:05 p.m. – Joe Waters

6:15 pm. to 6:40 p.m. – Gwen Brown

6:50 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. – Alexis Gomez

7:25 p.m. to 7:50 p.m. – Dayton Celebration Chorus

One of the most important aspects of the festival is that it remains a free attraction for all families in the community.

“For some of our most vulnerable families, not only is this the kick-off of the holiday season, but quite often, it is much of their holiday season,” Gudorf said. “Mrs. Virginia Kettering started the festival so that all children, all families, regardless of their economic means can enjoy the holidays. She asked we maintain everything free so everyone can enjoy it and we continue to do that to this day, and that speaks to the generosity of this community.”

Additional Dayton Holiday Festival activities happening downtown on Friday:

  • Live Reindeer, Courthouse Square 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Two of Santa’s reindeer will be available for attendees to visit on Courthouse Square. Santa’s sleigh will also be available for pictures.

  • Gingerbread Homes for the Holidays Contest, The Old Court House, 3rd and Main Streets, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

All delicious entries will be on display for the public to vote on their favorites.

  • Street Fair on Third, Third St. between Main and Ludlow St., 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Free fair rides and other activities available for kids throughout the evening.

  • Horse-drawn Wagon Rides, northeast corner of 2nd and Main St., 4 p.m., 7:30 p.m.

“Enjoy a wagon ride through downtown!” stated the DDP’s website. “Plan to come early, as the rides are very popular and lines can be long (Please note that in order to ensure everyone in line will get a ride, it is often necessary to close the line earlier than the scheduled end time.) Suggested donation: $1 per person.”

  • Holiday Village, 2nd St. between Main and Jefferson St., 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Festive activities, music and surprises for the kids.

  • Holiday Adventure, starts at Courthouse Square, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Kids will go on an adventure around the festival, winning a free book after visiting all the stops.

Ongoing activities are planning throughout the month of December as part of the Dayton Holiday Festival. Visit for a full list of events.

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