There will be a Christmas Parade of Lights at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5 in downtown Palestine thanks to Tera Farris, Judith Cantrell and “Parade Lady” Rebekah Wilkinson.
After the city cancelled their parade, the downtown business owning trio of Farris, Wilkinson and Cantrell decided to sponsor their own community lighted-Christmas parade.
“We are not doing this out of spite or in a hateful manner in any way, shape or form,” Farris said. “We are doing this because we want our children to have this for Christmas-time. It’s a free event that we should have the option to attend. If you do not feel safe doing so, please stay home. That is a very simple way, and a very kind way to put it. If you feel like coming out with your family, please do. If you don’t, please stay home. I think it’s that simple. We are doing this out of the joy of Christmas and for the joy of Christmas, that is why we are doing this.”
This Birthday Parade for Jesus has a theme of “A Supersized Christmas.”
Anyone under the age of 16 wishing to participate in the parade will need to provide a permission form signed by a parent or guardian.
Parade forms can be picked up at Sweet Southern Charm Boutique, 201 W. Main St. in Palestine.
Parade entries will be judged in three categories for awards.
Lineup for the parade is set for 6 p.m. Saturday on Howard Street, with cars facing Oak Street. The parade will begin at 7 p.m. The parade route will head out of Howard St., crossing Oak St. to West Main St. turning left on North Sycamore St., then taking a left onto East Oak St., floats can disperse as they wish after they cross back onto Howard St.
Onlookers and parade participants are asked to park in designated parking areas only.
According to Farris, there will be no barricades provided by the city for this event. Everyone participating in the parade need to follow all traffic laws. Entries will have to stop at each stop sign.
Since there will be no barricades provided by the city for this parade, onlookers are asked to stand on the sidewalks and not in the street.
Floats are allowed to throw candy and trinkets, but are asked to toss them in a safe manner to onlookers and not to hand anything to anyone along the route.
The volunteers organizing this event will not be held responsible for any parking violations, illness or injury of parade participants or onlookers. Each person is responsible for their own actions and needs to look out for their own safety and well-being and for the safety and well-being of their children.
Wilkinson asks parade onlookers to properly social distance and wear masks.
“There’s plenty of room along the parade route for people to spread out in their groups,” she said.
After the parade, there will be treats and Santa photos at Sweet Southern Charm, with hot chocolate, wassail and coffee drinks. Lulu & Kakes will also be open for customers.
Due to the dedication of Wilkerson, parades have been a continued source of joy to many in the community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Social distancing made parades the safest way to celebrate any occasion in Anderson County and across the nation this past year. Wilkerson led the charge in Palestine for residents to use drive-by parades for birthday celebrations and holidays, but what developed was the use parades as a tool to celebrate life and each other in many ways.
For birthday parties, parades were a welcome movement for children, and others, who otherwise would miss parties and family gatherings because of social distancing, stay-at-home orders, and quarantines.
Locally, Birthday Party Parades of Anderson County on Facebook has made birthdays fun again, since Wilkinson, of Palestine, founded the group on March 30. Wilkinson started with a post on Neighbors Supporting Neighbors in Anderson County: People with a child having a birthday could ask her to parade by the home with friends on the special day. Wilkinson received so many responses, she decided to start her own site.
Locals supported and enjoyed the free community service. Car clubs, including the 903 Jeep Club, joined the fun. Residents of Anderson County showed up to participate in each parade and donate money for candy, trinkets, and gifts. A local baker even donated cupcakes for each child’s celebration.
On the special day, parade participants would meet at a designated location and then caravan to the address. The birthday child or adult stands at a designated spot, as people from the community drive by, parade style, with signs, honking their horns, and singing and shouting “Happy Birthday!” They also throw candy, trinkets, and small gifts.
Adults birthdays were also celebrated and parades were coordinated to uplift local nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Holiday celebrations became a part of the mix when Wilkinson set up a special community event for Easter, with an Easter bunny delivering more than 100 baskets of goodies to random children in the community.
The parades were so uplifting and inspirational, that Sarah Lee, sales manager from Brookdale Assisted Living and chairperson of the Health Advisory of Anderson County, decided to host a Superhero themed parade on April 28, to celebrate Palestine’s frontline COVID-19 medical workers.
Despite a misty morning of showers that day, more than 20 cars, decorated with Marvel and DC comic super heros, paraded around Palestine.
At the end of the 2019-2020 school year, children’s parents used the parades as a way to surprise their homeroom teachers. Parents coordinated with other parents, decorating cars with balloons and posters of “We miss you” and “We love you” and driving parade style by the teacher’s home, honking, waving and yelling messages of praise and love. They sometimes drop off gifts and trinkets to the teacher standing curbside for connection with their pupils.
Area elementary teachers have also hosted parades around their communities to connect with their much missed student body.
And many school’s held graduation parades as a way to honor their seniors in a special way during the pandemic.
It seems fitting to celebrate the last and biggest holiday of the year in this fashion before the New Year’s Eve ball drops and we usher in a new year.