By Jeff Noble, Staff Writer
It’s been said everyone loves a parade, especially during the Christmas holiday season.
That being said, the first of three Christmas parades in the Tri County region kicks off later today (this Saturday) in Barbourville, with the “I Believe in Santa Claus” Parade starting at 6 p.m.
London’s annual Christmas parade follows next Friday, November 30, with Williamsburg’s Christmas Parade coming ‘round the corner on Saturday, December 8.
Just like the large turnouts expected at all three parades, the weather in late November and early December can be expected to be unpredictable. And today’s weather is a case in point.
Two words say it all.
The forecast calls for sunny skies, but “Old Sol” will be deceiving — highs this afternoon will only be around 40 degrees, and by parade time, the mercury dips down into the 30s.
Barbourville Mayor David Thompson says the chill won’t deter the city’s and Knox County’s holiday tradition at all.
“The city’s got the trolley ready for the parade. We’ve got the Knox County Middle School’s girls dance team ready to throw candy out to the children. We always buy enough candy for both Halloween and Christmas, so we’ve got plenty of candy left over for the parade. And the Christmas Tree’s put up in front of the courthouse, all shiny, bright and festive,” Thompson said in a phone interview Wednesday.
Festivities in Barbourville start this afternoon at 4:30 p.m. with wagon rides provided by Hillview Stables, LLC. The rides will be in the Mitchell’s Parking Lot Area downtown, and will continue until 6 p.m.
At 5 p.m., two holiday events begin in Barbourville — those floats and units participating in the Christmas parade will line up on North Main Street, while the lighting of the big Christmas Tree will take place in front of the Knox County Courthouse.
At 5:30 p.m. the Pre-Parade Celebration will be held in the Forcht Bank parking lot on Knox Street. Hot chocolate, coffee, cookies and treats for the children will be served, and with the cold temperatures today, some much-needed fuel for the tummy will go well with the frosty frolics going on outside.
The big parade kicks off at 6 p.m. Starting at the lineup site on North Main Street, the parade route runs down North Main, through Court Square into Knox Street, turning into Allison Avenue and ending at the Barbourville Water Park.
Santa will be on the last float, and once the parade ends at the water park, children can visit the “Ho-Ho Man” in the amphitheater, where treats will be served.
“The children love it. They look forward to this every year. We’re expecting between 4,000 to 5,000 persons will line the parade route. I would have never dreamed that so many people line the streets for the entire parade route until I rode in the parade myself. It’s a great start to the Christmas season,” Thompson pointed out.
The City of Barbourville, the Knox County Fiscal Court, Barbourville Tourism, and the “I Believe in Santa Claus” Committee are sponsors for today’s events.
Thompson stated while the parade already draws a large crowd, he’d like to see more participation next year. He added Barbourville Tourism’s new director, Denise Wainscott, has an idea to help meet that goal.
“Next year, tourism will set up a meeting with the Christmas Committee to work on getting churches in the county and city involved in the holiday celebration. We’re hoping to get more participation to get a bigger parade next year,” said Thompson.
Thompson, who serves on the Barbourville Tourism board, said Wednesday that Wainscott had been recently named to the position. Not only will Wainscott serve as Tourism Director — she’ll also serve as Executive Assistant to Dr. Marcia Hawkins, President of Union College.
London’s Christmas festivities start next Friday, November 30 at 5 p.m.with music from local groups in front of the Laurel County Courthouse steps.
London Downtown’s Director, Chris Robinson, said a “book walk” will start immediately afterwards.
“The book walk is an event where participating merchants and offices open their doors, and children and parents listen to the stories being read. There’s 14 participating stores who will be in the book walk downtown next Friday,” Robinson stated last Wednesday in a phone interview.
The Christmas Parade in London will start at 7 p.m. next Friday. It starts at London Elementary School, goes down Main Street and ends at Carnaby Square Shopping Center on South Main. Depending on the weather, Robinson estimates about 10,000 people will be watching the parade, with 1,000-1,500 people participating in the parade itself.
After the parade, the tree-lighting ceremony will be held at London’s Farmer’s Market.
Those festivities feature music, a “snowball drop”, and a visit from Santa Claus. Robinson said it won’t be hard to find the tree, because of its size.
“We planted a tree this summer, a 35-foot-tall Norway Spruce. That’s the tree that will be at the Farmer’s Market, and hopefully, it will be a holiday fixture for years to come,” he noted.
Over in Williamsburg, the city has declared December 2-8 as “Christmas Week.” The holiday beauty and events culminate with the Williamsburg Christmas Parade, set for Saturday, December 8 at 6 p.m.
That city’s parade will start at Williamsburg City School and Main Street Baptist Church. From there, the parade will roll through downtown and end in front of the Whitley County Courthouse. After the parade (around 7 p.m.), “Caroling in the Park” will be held at Bill Wood Park. The Williamsburg Community Choir will provide the singing, with apple cider and hot chocolate being served at the event.
Parade Organizer Erin Mays said last Tuesday that all plans are on schedule, and the pieces of the parade are falling into place.
“The city’s Mayor, Roddy Harrison, loves Christmas, which is why Williamsburg has ‘Christmas Week’ every year. Usually around 1,000-1,500 people show up to see the parade, depending on the weather. We’re looking at about 15-20 floats to be in it, as well as horses and their riders, all the fire and police departments in the area participating, and some local dignitaries and well-known celebrities who are originally from here. Right now we’re hoping to have (State Representative) Regina Bunch as the parade’s Grand Marshall. Mayor Roddy will be riding in the parade as well, and WKYT’s Bill Bryant, a Williamsburg native, will also be in the parade, as he has been in previous years. Everybody loves to see Bill in the parade,” Mays stated in a phone interview.
If you’d like to participate in the Williamsburg parade, or need more information, call Mays at (606) 521-1848.