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Santa and Mrs. Claus will make an early appearance in Downtown Washington this Friday for the Holiday Parade of Lights, which starts at 6 p.m.

Their reindeers will not be able to make the trip, so instead they will be riding in a special horse-drawn carriage, according to Cassidy Lowery, events specialist for Downtown Washington Inc., which sponsors the parade.

“We are so excited about this year’s lineup and expect big crowds,” Lowery told The Missourian. “We have just over 50 entries and several new businesses and groups participating for the first time.”

The parade, traditionally held the day after Thanksgiving, will begin at 6 p.m. at the corner of Cedar and Main streets.

All of the entries and even the participants will be decked out in lights.

“The more the better,” said Lowery.

This year’s theme is the same as last year —The Magic of Christmas.

Entries will include floats, decorated cars, antique fire trucks and walking groups — all decorated with lights. Special costumed guests also will participate, including McGruff the Crime Dog and Elroy the Elk, along with the Shriner’s Moolah Yomo Mini Patrol.

The Washington High School Band will march in the parade, but the St. Francis Borgia Regional High School Band will be performing in Chicago over Thanksgiving weekend.

Other entries include the 2019 Washington Fair Queen and her court and the East Central College Jazz Band, which will be on a trailer playing music.

The very last entry will be Santa and Mrs. Claus. The Washington JROTC will lead the parade.

Lowery said there will be two categories — nonprofit and business/individual — for judging, which is optional.

Prizes will be awarded for first, second and third place in both categories and the winners will receive a trophy.

Parade Route

The parade route will be the same as in past years. The parade will wind through the downtown streets starting at Main and Cedar streets.

It will head south on Cedar to Fifth Street; east on Fifth to Elm Street; north on Elm to Second Street; east on Second to Jefferson Street; north on Jefferson to Main Street; and west on Main to Cedar Street.

The parade will officially end in front of the Farmers’ Market.

Tree Lighting

After the parade, Mayor Sandy Lucy will join Santa Claus to officially turn on the lights of the large downtown Christmas tree at the corner of Main and Elm streets.

Santa also will stick around after the tree lighting under the market to greet children.

The giant Christmas tree was erected Monday by Downtown Washington Inc. volunteers and city workers. This is the third year for an artificial tree, which was purchased using funds from the city’s half-cent capital improvement sales tax.

Rain Date

Lowery said there is rain in the forecast for Thursday, but she hopes there will be a window of time to get the parade in Friday.

“We will only cancel if it’s pouring down rain,” she said. “We will try and make the call early Friday afternoon, so people should check social media if the weather looks bad.”

A rain date has been set, for the next day at the same time, but Lowery said she hopes that’s not necessary.

Heavy rains did force the cancellation of the parade last year. The parade has only been canceled twice due to weather, Lowery noted.

“We didn’t have a rain date set up last year, so this is something new we’re trying and while we hope it doesn’t even come into play, we are asking participants to be available the next day if we have to cancel,” she said.

Lowery said the Holiday Parade of Lights serves as the unofficial kickoff to the Christmas season and always attracts a large number of spectators.