The Athens-Clarke County Downtown Christmas Parade on Thursday is not only an annual holiday event, but it is a tradition for many families who have long called Athens home.
“It’s a multi-generational thing. They remember going as a child and now they’re taking their children,” ACC Community Relations Specialist Cathy Padgett said.
The parade — with the theme of Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree — begins at 7 p.m. at Hancock and Pulaski streets as it follows a trail to Clayton and Thomas street, and down Washington to College Avenue.
“We have more than 80 entries and more than 1,000 people in the parade,” Padgett said. “I think it’s definitely the official kickoff to the holiday season in Athens. And it’s a great family event.”
Early Thursday, officials will close Washington Street and College Avenue to traffic at 2 p.m. and Hancock at 3 p.m., with remaining streets at 6:30 p.m.
“Get to downtown early,” Padgett advised. “Get a good parking space, maybe have dinner downtown and make it a whole evening.”
Because it is a large parade, she urged people for safety reasons to stay on sidewalks and behind the barricades.
The parade is a blend of floats made by various businesses and organizations, antique cars, and marching groups, including the high schools bands from Cedar Shoals, Clarke Central, Madison County and Oglethorpe County.
Marilyn Farmer, who was a Clarke County Commissioner for 14 years beginning in 1986, will serve as grand marshal.
“This is a great way we can honor those who served the community and who are an important part of the community,” Padgett said. “A former commissioner once told me his favorite part about being a commissioner was riding in the parade.”
This year’s favorable weather forecast calls for clear skies, but cool to cold temperatures.
“We have seen every kind of weather forecast,” Padgett said.
“Our parade is at night and that’s one thing that kind of sets it apart as a lot of communities have parades in the daytime,” she said.
For more information on the parade, visit athensclarkecounty.com/parade.