Mild weather and lots of things to see and do brought out the crowds at the Forest Park Holiday Walk on Madison Street Friday.
After the Forest Park police squad car arrived, carrying Santa and Mrs. Claus, Mayor Anthony Calderone lit the village Christmas tree in Constitution Court.
Pedestrians thronged both sides of the street in Forest Park’s main business district for the rest of the evening.
Two white Clydesdale horses pulled a wagon full of revelers up and down the street, while children waited to pet live reindeer — bell-bedecked — next door to Todd & Holland Tea Merchants.
Santa Claus and the Missus held court in the Forest Park National Bank Lobby, where children and their parents waited patiently in line for an audience. Afterwards, they were rewarded with cookies and hot cider.
Also in the lobby, the Historical Society of Forest Park sold fundraising copies of its new Forest Parkopoly board game, which features 55 village businesses and institutions, as well as historical photos of Forest Park, past and present.
An oompah Christmas brass band and carolers performed holiday favorites outside on the street, while at Centuries and Sleuths Bookstore, the Pippins, an “amateur madrigal group,” sang historical carols in Latin, German and olde English.
Madison Street merchants gave away treats, such as meatballs at Jimmy’s and hot chocolate for kids and mulled cider for adults outside Fiorenza. Paulson’s Paint and IAFF Local 2353, the firefighters union, sponsored face painting at Paulson’s.
But the live window displays were the highlight of the evening.
Pink-wigged party girls danced energetically in the windows of Todd & Holland Tea Merchants while Charlie Brown, in yellow zigzag tee, waved from Brown Cow.
In the Antiques Emporium, vintage Twister Sisters danced to a hit from 1962. A festive “elf” appeared in the window of the Flavour Cooking School, and real ballerinas pirouetted in the Intuit Dance Studio windows.
Yearbook filled their window with a snowdrift, and three French hens pecked in the straw next to Pretty Little Things. Santa’s beard was spun into wool at Knit Nirvana.
It’s unclear whether Schauer’s Hardware sells Sonic Screwdrivers, but Dr. Who was in evidence at the store, complete with time-traveling neon velocipede.
But the pooches you wanted to smootch were at deedee & edee’s “Under the Sea” exhibit, which recreated a sort of Pugs of the Caribbean.
Five pudgy pugs at a time frolicked in sea creature costumes with mermaid Jaclyn Scatina. An eye-patched pirate passed out gold doubloons.
A total of 11 pugs were in the store, said the boutique’s owner, Deb Dworman. They were Olive, Emma, Ned, Rocko, Ruby, Chango, Dozer, Jean Harlow, Joanie, Blanche and Stanley.
“I only have Blanche and Stanley,” said Dworman. “But I have met many over the course of the past two years.”
The dogs are all friends. Dworman hosts a playgroup Pug Party early Saturday mornings at her Oak Park home with as many as 14 pugs in attendance. “Several are rescues,” Dworman said. “One, Max, is paralyzed in a stroller, but he couldn’t come to the Holiday Walk.”
“There were five at a time in the window,” Dworman said. “We switched them out and walked them and gave them water in between sets, if you will.”
“We do it for the kids. It’s a family night,” Dworman said. “We had great business that night. People can’t resist the pugs. We want everybody to have a good time.”
Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Laurie Kokenes said the yearly walk is one of the most successful events in Forest Park. “When the merchants are happy and people coming are happy, that’s exactly what we want,” Kokenes said.
“I heard people on the street say, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe the number of shops on this street.’ Maybe they didn’t buy that night, but they’re going to come back and they’re going to tell somebody else,” she added.