City kicks off Christmas celebration

By BETH BUNCH,

­Though documentation of the first Petal Christmas Parade is scarce, newspaper articles have been found as far back as 1961 which describe the annual event that marks the beginning of the holiday season in Petal.

This year’s parade, which includes about 50 entries, steps off at 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4, from the north end of Main Street at Dirt Cheap and travels south before ending behind the Petal Civic Center where a variety of events will take place.

The theme for this year’s parade is Starlight, Starbright.

“Being an evening parade adds to the excitement with the addition of lighted floats and vehicles,” said Petal Chamber of Commerce Director Valerie Wilson.

In addition to floats, band, walking characters and others, the Coca Cola Santa Truck, a parade favorite, will also roll down Main Street.

 Team Hero 2190, the robotics team at Petal High School, will once again have a float in this year’s parade. Earlier this week team members were busy placing lights on a trailer and wrapping gifts to be placed around the eight-foot Christmas tree on the float. Their entry, Get Lit, will help paradegoers get in the holiday mood as the PHS team lights up the evening with their float.

Team members riding the float will also be throwing out candy to those along the parade route. The team consists of 15 students and two sponsors, Tracy Rogers Sustaita and Dr. Krystin Holmes.

Parade lineup begins at 2 p.m. “All floats and vehicles must be in line by 2:30 p.m.,” said Wilson. “Please make sure your group knows your group name and entry number.”

During lineup, West First Ave. and North Railroad Street will convert to a one-way thoroughfare at 2 p.m. Enter the parade lineup at the corner of Central Avenue and North Railroad Street at Furniture World.

Judges for this year’s parade, which will be located in front of the Petal Chamber office, include Andrea Saffle, executive director of the Hattiesburg Historic Downtown Association; Corey Howard, news reporter for FOX 23 and Rick Wilemon, curator of the Sarah Gillespie Museum at William Carey University and Oddfellows Gallery in Hattiesburg. 

Following the parade will be a celebration of Christmas in Hinton (Relay) Park beginning with the lighting of the city’s Christmas tree and announcement of the parade winners.

Santa will be available for photos (parents, bring your own camera to take photos) and different groups and organizations will be offering food and beverages while attendees enjoy live music by the Petal High School Jazz Lab Band. There will also be an additional photo backdrop made by the art students at Petal Upper Elementary.

4H members will be selling baked goods the Jaycees will have hot chocolate. The Hub City Humane Society will have animals on hand for adoption

The evening will end with a free movie in the park. “Grinch,” the Jim Carey version, will be shown this year. Moviegoers should bring chairs or blankets.