This weekend should be the perfect time to put everyone in the holiday spirit.
After Thanksgiving on Thursday and Black Friday shopping on Friday, the annual Manchester Christmas will light up the town starting at 7 p.m. Saturday.
This year’s parade, themed “Around the World” and sponsored by Manchester Tourism and Community Development and Lovelady Auto Parts, will be slightly bigger than last year’s version with 88 entries expected to snake their way through Manchester’s streets.
“I hope everybody comes out and enjoys the parade,” said Manchester Mayor Lonnie Norman. “We are going to have quite a few more floats than we had last year. It will be a great weekend to get [the Christmas season] going.”
Due to renovations taking place on the downtown square, this year’s parade will take a slightly different route than in past years. The parade will still line up at Coffee County Middle School on State Route 55 and turn North on U.S. Highway 41. However, instead of turning onto N. Spring Street, this year the parade will turn on Woodland Street and travel past the Manchester Arts Center, Fred Deadman Park and eventually disperse at the Manchester Recreation Center.
“We moved it because of all the construction,” said Joy Ballard with the Manchester Mayor’s office. “The biggest dilemma with moving it is getting electricity to the stage but the police department is working really hard to get that fixed. We are going to use generators to make that happen.”
Ballard added that the parade will be moved to Sunday if weather does not cooperate.
“Whether it is warm or cold we will have the parade and even if we have a sprinkle or two we will have it, but if it is a monsoon or we have three feet of snow or something it will be moved to 7 p.m. Sunday,” explained Ballard.
The current National Weather Service forecast calls for partly-sunny skies and temperatures in the low 50s Saturday.
There will be cash awards for the top three floats. The first-place float will receive $500, second place $250 and third place $100. Santa Claus is also expected to make an appearance.
Manchester Police Department Assistant Chief Adam Floied said vehicles will be permitted to park in the median and turning lane on Highway 41, but he cautions parents to keep their eyes on children.
“You turn your head for a second and a kid runs out in the road to get candy,” explained Floied. “We just ask people to park in a safe place where they aren’t blocking traffic and keep eyes on children.”
Floied added that volunteers will be walking alongside most floats to help prevent children from entering the roadway.
“We have a group of volunteers walking alongside the floats and they are doing that to hand out candy and balloons and such to help prevent kids from running into the roads.”