Annual Christmas parade gives community chance to get into the Christmas spirit
It was a cloudy day in Lynchburg, yet Mary Shumate decided to take her family to Memorial Avenue where they gathered in the sideway with blankets and two chairs to watch the Lynchburg Christmas parade. As a firefighter, Shumate rarely participates in the event, but she was able to this year.
“I want the kids to get to see Santa,” Shumate said. “It is fun the get out here. You get to see everybody, and it is so exciting to get in the Christmas spirit.”
The first Lynchburg Christmas parade was hosted in 1959 by the Lynchburg Jaycees, back when the route went through downtown Lynchburg, but as the city grew so did the parade. Now 60 years later, the community enjoys 90 floats parading down Memorial Avenue hosted by the Central Virginia Business Coalition.
“Hopefully it takes people back to their childhood,” Heather Alto, co-executive director for the central Virginia business coalition and the Lynchburg parade said. “Having a parade where you can see the different floats, the lights, and the people dressed up brings up a sense of enjoyment.”
There is space for everybody in the parade, from business to clowns, from Kuumba (traditional African dance) dancers to veterans and the traditional marching bands.
Businesses like Steph’s Bubbles & Bows, a local boutique for dogs, made a striking appearance at the parade. Their float included four bubble machines, and a group of dogs wearing Christmas outfits while they walked to the rhythm of the song “Who Let the Dogs Out.”
“It is fun going out and socializing with the community,” Stephanie Witt, owner of Steph’s Bubbles & Bows said. “I wanted people to feel happy and to feel the holiday spirit while they enjoy the bubbles and the music, and I want to see a smile on their faces.”
For Alto, the parade is about having the community enjoying an event in which parents can bring their kids for free and people of any age can experience the holiday fun.
“This year the theme is home for the holidays,” Alto said. “We are hoping a lot of people will bring that home feeling into their floats because a sense of community is the biggest purpose behind it.”
Alto said the community has changed a lot since the days of the first parade, but the parade is one of the things that keeps the essence of its purpose during the holidays, to bring a sense of togetherness.
“I like people to feel togetherness again,” Alto said. “Even if it is for that hour and a half, if you are there with your whole family, holding hands, or if you got your child on your shoulders, watching the parade, I want them to feel togetherness.”
According to Alto, the parade is a perfect opportunity to take a break from the stress of life, especially during the holiday season
“The parade is like a song,” Alto said. “You kind of forget your troubles for that moment and get involved in something that is fun for an hour and a half.”