Winchester parade, tree lighting Monday
Winchester — Lights, candy, action — the Christmas season will officially be welcomed into downtown Winchester Monday when thousands of people come out for the city’s Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting Ceremony.
Spectators will have the opportunity to see a holiday movie, parade (which means holiday candy), tree lighting and Santa Claus for free as part of the annual festivities, said Leslie Bowery, special events coordinator for the Winchester Parks and Recreation Department. The department is putting on the event with the Old Town Development Board.
The night begins at 5:30 p.m., when Parks and Rec staff will show “Arthur Christmas” on the lawn of the Old Court House Civil War Museum, Bowery said. People should bring their own blankets and chairs.
The 97-minute 2011 animated film (rated PG) follows the adventures of Santa’s son. The movie will be shown again immediately following the tree-lighting ceremony.
The main event, the parade, starts at 7 p.m. on Piccadilly Street and will wind along Braddock and Cork streets. In all, more than 40 bands, floats and units travel in the procession, with the Winchester Host Lions Club as parade marshal.
All the local middle school and high school bands will march in the parade along with Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, 4-H groups, Winchester BMX, and the American Cancer Society, Bowery said. Fellowship Bible Church will have walkers, live animals and a float to promote “Follow the Star,” its live nativity scene, which will be held Dec. 1 and 2.
“It is a really great community get together,” she said. “It is fun to see local groups and kids come out and be a part of a feel good community event. It is the start of the holidays.”
This year is the fourth year that the parade and tree lighting have been held on a Monday night after being held on Saturdays.
The guest of honor, Santa, will arrive on his sleigh from the North Pole to ride in the parade. When it ends, he heads to the tree in front of the Old Court House Civil War Museum to turn on the lights using a special candy cane paddle switch “powered by Christmas magic.”
The tree went up Tuesday and will illuminate the Loudoun Street Mall during the holiday season, said Will Moore, interim downtown manager. While not officially part of the tree lighting, downtown will also be decorated with lights and woven grapevine balls that hang from many of the trees along the mall.
Hopefully, all of the lights will be on by Monday, Moore said. Because of some of the work going on at the Taylor Hotel, the electric service that provides power to the tree wells up and down the north end of the mall was disconnected.
“We are working with Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative to get a meter re-installed and get a service line so that we have power back to those trees along the north end of the mall,” he said.
Children and their parents will be given numbers when they come in so they won’t have to stand in line quite as long as they normally do, she said. They can go and come back and check and see where they are in the order.
Event organizers suggest people park in the Court Square, Loudoun Street, and George Washington Autoparks. There will be a $5 charge. The Braddock Street Autopark also will be open, but exits will close until the parade is over.
The parade, the tree lighting and all of the events associated with it are a citywide event, Bowery said. It takes the cooperation of several different agencies to pull it off.
But the result is a true community event, she said. Some people bring their children, just as their parents brought them when they were young.
“It is all part of being part of the community, especially at the holidays,” she said.
Santa will head back to the North Pole following the conclusion of Monday’s festivities, but he will return to Winchester after starting his Christmas preparations to meet with children and hear their Christmas list requests.
Santa’s Headquarters will be set up at the Godfrey Miller Fellowship Center, 28 S. Loudoun St., from 5 to 7 p.m. Nov. 30 and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 1, Bowery said. The event is free and open to the public.
“People can bring their cameras and take pictures with Santa,” she said. “We have a little picture frame craft the kids can do while they are waiting to go in and see Santa.”
If children can’t come see St. Nick, they can still get their Christmas list to him, Bowery said. The Santa Letters program will run from today until Dec. 8. Leave a letter for Santa in one of his special mailboxes with a return address on it, and Santa will write back. Mailbox locations are the War Memorial Building in Jim Barnett Park, City Hall, 15 N. Cameron St., and the Winchester-Frederick County Visitors Center, 1400 S. Pleasant Valley Road.
For more information, call Winchester Parks and Recreation at 540-662-4946.
— Contact Laura McFarland at email@example.com.