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Dickens on the Square – WIU Students Helping Spread Community Cheer

November 29, 2022

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MACOMB, IL -- Santa Claus is coming to town...literally...on Amtrak, Friday, Dec. 2.

Santa's arrival, at approximately 6:15 p.m., is just one part of Dickens on the Square: A Magical Holiday, an event that will feature horse drawn carriage rides, living windows, strolling performers and more.

The 28th annual Dickens on the Square celebration, taking place from 6-9 p.m. Friday, and all-day Saturday, features more participation from Western Illinois University students than ever before. In addition to being a magical holiday celebration, this year's Dickens on the Square will also demonstrate the cooperation between the city of Macomb and WIU.

Students have long been a part of the Dickens on the Square celebration. They have volunteered through student organizations, and have been able to use the event as a way to apply concepts learned in courses. This year, Macomb's Downtown Development office expanded student involvement by providing opportunities for graduate students in the WIU Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Administration (RPTA) to apply the experience design competencies they've learned in classes to build upon and create new events as part of Dickens in the Square.

"We're grateful for opportunities like these that allow students to experience first-hand the real-world challenges that creating and hosting programs like this involves," said WIU Associate Professor of RPTA Jeremy Robinett. "It makes them better qualified as they apply for jobs, while benefitting the community by providing new opportunities."

Wrapped in Kindness is an event focused on creating inclusive experiences that benefit our community. Individuals can bring their pre-boxed gifts to Macomb City Hall from 5-8 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, and representatives from RPTA, the Black Student Association, Good Girl Movement and local civic organizations will wrap the gifts free. This is supported by a generous donation of wrapping paper from Citizens Bank, a division of Morton Community Bank, in Macomb.

A Paw'lidays photo booth and Ugly Sweater Photo Contest will take place from 10 a.m.-noon Saturday, and will allow folks to have holiday-themed photos taken with their pets, or with animals currently living at the McDonough County Animal Shelter. All proceeds from the $10 digital images will benefit the Humane Society of McDonough County.

Lastly, individuals and families will have the opportunity to create a unique Christmas video that can be shared with family and friends by recording themselves reading a story at the Macomb Public Library from 4-5:30 p.m. Friday, and from 10 a.m.-noon Saturday.

"I am very thankful for the partnerships at Western Illinois University. Dickens cannot be done without the students," said Downtown Development Director Kristin Terry. "I really enjoy working with the RPTA department and students on bringing the class work to reality."

For more information about Dickens on the Square, including ways to be involved, visit

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