It’s back and bigger than ever. The 86th annual Gainesville lighted Christmas parade set for Thursday has just over 90 participants signed up, according to the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce.

“I believe this should be the biggest parade yet,” chamber Executive Director Morgan Tobias said Monday, Dec. 2. Floats, walking groups, ATVs and more will begin lining up at 4 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5, in the staging area on Broadway Street between Dixon Street and Depot Lane, she said.

As in years past, the parade will step off at 6 p.m. and head west on California Street from Depot Lane to Weaver Street before the floats head back to the staging area on Broadway Street, Tobias said.

“We highly suggest people avoid parking between California Street and Broadway,” she said. “Broadway and California will be barricaded off until the floats are back in the assembly area, so people will experience some heavy traffic if they park in that area.”

The weather should be favorable for the parade, forecasts show. David Bonnette with the National Weather Service said temperatures should settle at around 70 on Thursday before dropping to the mid-60s by parade’s end — about five to 10 degrees above normal for this time of year.

A front is expected to move through the area Thursday night into Friday morning, bringing “passing light rain showers,” Bonnette said. The front could arrive in Gainesville between 8-10 p.m. so parade-goers might need an umbrella if they stay afterward.

“It’s really not looking all that bad,” he said. “It’s not like the past few fronts we’ve had.”

The parade, hosted by the chamber of commerce, will have a Grinch-style theme of “Welcome to Gainesville.” All entries are required to be lit up.

“You will likely see many Grinches and Cindy Lou Whos, but the one and only Santa Claus will be at the very end of the parade to light the Christmas tree on the courthouse square,” Tobias said in an email.

Santa will be on the stage at the Gainesville Farmers Market after the parade, Tobias said, so families can take pictures with the jolly old elf. A $5 donation is requested and the proceeds will support the Cooke County Littlest Angels program, she said. The program helps families that cannot afford Christmas gifts for their children. Food trucks will also be set up at the farmers market, 201 N. Chestnut St., Tobias said.

“There will also be free hot chocolate and cookies provided by the Gainesville Lions Club and the Medal of Honor Host City Program,” she added.

Gainesville’s 2018 Christmas parade had 65 entries, the Register reported last year.

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