Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Festival downtown to usher in holiday season

by RANDY WELLS rwells@indianagazette.net on November 18, 2013 11:00 AM

Indiana’s new outdoor people-gathering space, IRMC Park along North Seventh Street, will be the focal point for many of the “It’s a Wonderful Life Festival and Parade” events kicking off the yuletide holiday season Friday evening.

And celebrity impersonator Rich Little and Judy Stewart, daughter of film star and Indiana native Jimmy Stewart, will return to Indiana to lead many of the festivities made possible through the Lucy Donnelly Memorial Fund and Downtown Indiana Inc.

Nearly all of the construction work on the $2.5 million IRMC Park and the rebuilding of the Vinegar Hill steps and retaining wall along Water Street should be completed by Friday’s kickoff celebrations.

The plaza-like space — along both sides of the first block of North Seventh Street — features wide sidewalks with brick inlays and new decorative tables, benches and street lights. As a finishing touch before its debut party Friday, IRMC Park is scheduled to get new decorative street trees this week.

Because of its central location and new amenities, IRMC Park is expected to become the venue for many of downtown Indiana’s traditional outdoor events.

Friday’s “It’s a Wonderful Life Festival” will feature several separate events downtown from late afternoon through the evening.

• From 4 to 7:45 p.m., The Jimmy Stewart Museum, 835 Philadelphia St., will host a free open house and present continuous showings of “The Making of It’s a Wonderful Life.”

• Roasting marshmallows, hayrides and making crafts will be some of the holiday activities for the family from 5:30 to 8 p.m. in IRMC Park. Hot chocolate and kettle corn will be available. And the Community Music School Adult Choral Group will perform at 5:30 p.m., followed by the Indiana Junior High School Jazz Band (Spirit Band) at 6 p.m.

• At 6:30 p.m., the drawing will be held in IRMC Park for the winner of the $14,000 custom-designed Love of Life Ring. Money raised through ticket sales for the ring supports advanced breast care and mammography services at the Women’s Imaging Center at Indiana Regional Medical Center.

• The Holiday Parade, featuring the Indiana Area Senior High School marching band, area groups and organizations, will step off at 7 p.m. from Fifth Street and will move along Philadelphia Street to Eighth Street. Judy Stewart and Rich Little will serve as the parade’s grand marshals.

• Stewart and Little will also preside over the lighting of the Christmas tree at the front of the Indiana County Court House immediately following the parade.

• Santa Claus will mingle with guests in IRMC Park after the tree lighting ceremony.

• Calvary Presbyterian Church, Seventh and Church streets, where the Stewart family worshipped, is holding an open house from 5:30 to 8 p.m. The public is welcome. It will include historical highlights about the Stewart legacy at the church, organ music performed by Roberta Jones, free hot chocolate and a free keepsake.

• And the 1946 holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” will be shown with free admission at the Indiana Theater at 8:15 p.m. Jimmy Stewart impersonator Chris Collins will introduce the movie.

Some traffic restrictions will be in place Friday. North Seventh Street between Philadelphia Street and Nixon Avenue will be closed during the activities in IRMC Park, and Philadelphia Street will be closed during the parade.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Vinegar Hill steps was originally planned as part of Friday’s downtown holiday festival. That has been postponed until spring.

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