The familiar strains of “Jingle Bells” echoed throughout downtown as Clarke Central High School’s marching band walked down the street wearing Santa hats for the 2019 Athens Downtown Parade of Lights.
The event, which was hosted by the Athens-Clarke County Leisure Services Department, featured 92 groups including nonprofits, high school bands, businesses and more. Spectators of all ages came together to line the streets bundled in jackets and scarves, while others wore holiday-themed sweaters with flashing light necklaces to catch a glimpse of the many decorated floats.
Following the flashing red and blue lights of the ACC motorcade, members from Clarke Central’s color guard and Junior ROTC groups smiled at kids sitting on cubs and those perched on the shoulders of their parents.
Shortly after, Mariah Parker, ACC’s District 2 Commissioner and rapper known by the name of Linqua Franqa, sat atop a fire truck bedecked in green garland and yellow lights along with the city’s other commissioners.
Other festive floats featured holiday-themed scenes such as Cub Scout Pack 96’s Christmas-tree forest and tent, evoking the whimsy of childhood as its young members flashed big grins and waved. ACC Transit’s bus came toward the end of the parade and was decorated like a gingerbread house complete with a mint-candy roof and a door bordered by sparkling candy canes.
A few groups, such as the Athens Cowboy Choir and Joe Willey and the Movin’ Men, even turned their floats into stages, combining music and the holiday spirit. Extra Special People’s “carol-aoke” float had a white sheet with lyrics to popular Christmas tunes as members and volunteers rode in the float and walked behind singing along and wearing festive sweaters.
While the floats dominated much of the parade, other groups decided to showcase their holiday spirit through other avenues.
Members of the North Georgia Pipes and Drums walked down the street while playing bagpipes draped in lights and dressed in kilts, while skaters from The Classic City Rollergirls skated forward and backward. Marching bands from surrounding high schools — including Madison County, North Oconee and East Jackson — showed their holiday spirit by wearing elf ears and antlers, as well as adorning their instruments with lights and tinsel. Many of the drummers even had sticks that looked like red and white candy canes.
The Parade of Lights wasn’t only for humans though, as dogs dressed in sweaters walked behind the banner for Waggin’ Tails Athens Pets. Animals of equine variety trotted down the streets of Athens as a part of the Classic City Clydesdales.
As the last notes of a marching band’s tune faded into the night, cheers of excitement erupted from children and adults alike as the last two participants in the parade came down the street: Santa and Mrs. Claus.