Cartersville will ring in the holiday season with a medley of festive events Thursday evening.
For the eighth year, the Cartersville Downtown Development Authority’s annual Christmas Tree Lighting will be held in conjunction with the Cartersville-Bartow County Exchange Club’s Christmas Parade.
At 4 p.m., the tree ceremony will begin at Friendship Plaza beside the Cartersville train depot, with the 50-foot Japanese Cryptomeria being illuminated at 6 p.m.
“The tree lighting ceremony involves everyone in the plaza providing a group countdown as we approach 6 p.m.,” Cartersville DDA Manager Lillie Read said. “As the countdown hits zero, that is the cue for the mayor to flip the switch that lights the Christmas tree.
“... This is a special event because so many people from throughout the community are downtown to watch the parade. It offers a great opportunity for folks to see what’s new downtown, check out our local shops, browse around for Christmas presents, and enjoy seeing their neighbors and fellow citizens. Plus, you get to watch one of the biggest Christmas parades in the area, which is always a ton of fun.”
Kicking off the festivities, Santa will be available for photos from 4 to 6 p.m. Along with a performance by Fusion Dance from 5 to 5:30 p.m., Cartersville School of Ballet also will entertain the crowd from 5:30 to 5:55 p.m.
“I enjoy seeing the kids get their picture made with Santa, because it is such a special occasion for many of them,” Read said. “I also love seeing the dance performances from the Fusion Dance and the Cartersville School of Ballet, because it’s neat to see what they have been working on with their students.
“The excitement of the community to kick off the Christmas season is always evident at this event, and it is great to see how everyone turns out for it. So, I just love the overall atmosphere of downtown during this event.”
After lining up at the Tabernacle Baptist Church parking lot at 4 p.m., the parade participants will depart at 6 p.m., turning right on Church Street, left on Bartow Street, left on Main Street, left on Stonewall Street, left on Church Street, right on Tennessee Street, left on Howard Street and then return to Tabernacle Baptist. In case of rain, the parade will be rescheduled for Dec. 14 at 6 p.m.
“The faces of the children has to be what I look forward to most,” said Jennifer Wiggins Matthews, member of the Cartersville-Bartow County Exchange Club. “As we lead off the parade with the Bucket Brigade, we have the honor of seeing the children and their excitement to see the floats and of course, Santa and Mrs. Claus. Line up of the parade is very busy and, of course, safety is our No. 1 priority. Earlier in the day as children arrive to find their float, we will hear them say, ‘There’s Santa’ and run over to give him a hug and have a picture made with him. These moments melt our hearts.
“It is amazing to see the thousands and thousands of people who come out for the parade. As we arrive for lineup in the early afternoon, we see cars and people already in place along the route so they can have a great view of the parade.”
Area residents still are encouraged to enter a noncommercial or commercial float or vehicle in the parade. Since the official deadline has passed, participants will be charged an additional $50.
Proceeds from the parade — donations to the bucket brigade at the beginning of the event and entrance fees — will benefit Advocates for Children, Bartow Christmas Coalition and Boys & Girls Clubs of Bartow County, along with helping fund a scholarship with the Etowah Scholarship Foundation.
“Each year the Bucket Brigade raises somewhere between $2,000 [and] $3,000,” Matthews said. “This donation is added to the funds raised through the registration fees to bring our yearly amount raised to an average of $12,000 for our local charities.
“We ask parade watchers to donate $1 or whatever change they have in their pockets to help us raise as much money as possible. Children along the parade route will run to us to give their dollar bill or coins. There are so many generous people along the route. If everyone would donate $1 or the coins they have, we could raise even more money for these worthwhile charities in our community.”
For more information about the parade or to obtain an application, visit www.cartersvilleexchange.com or call 770-382-8570. Further details about the Christmas Tree Lighting can be obtained by contacting the Cartersville DDA at 770-607-3480.
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