Florence Christmas parade attracts thousands

Parade spectators collect candy at the 2014 Florence Christmas Parade. Florence Main Street Director Teryl Shields said she expects 3,500 to 5,000 people to attend the event this year.

by News Editor Anna Brown

Will you be stuck on campus after exams? Are you looking for something fun to do after you finally get a chance to breathe after finals? Look no further than downtown Florence and the annual Christmas parade.

The parade will be Dec. 10, the day after finals end, at 7 p.m. on Court Street. It begins on UNA’s campus at Rogers Hall and ends at Alabama Street in front of First Southern Bank.

“We have between 3,500 and 5,000 people attend every year, depending on the weather,” said Executive Director of Florence Main Street Teryl Shields. “Downtown is packed.”

No cars can park along Court Street on the day of the parade, so spectators and participants have plenty of room to enjoy the parade, she said.

The parade is a true community effort, she said. The Florence Police Department, UNA Police Department and UNA ROTC help with security and crowd control at the event every year.

After Shields finalizes all the registration and office aspect of the parade, she said the ROTC handles the entire parade after lineup closes at 6:59 p.m.

“(The ROTC) is my little saving grace,” Shields said. “They actually utilize the Florence parade as a training exercise. They handle the entire coordination (of the parade). It’s a true community coordinated effort.”

Only one Santa, the “real Santa” is allowed in the parade she said.

Santa Claus is the last float in the parade. Children and their families wait through the whole parade for Santa, the main character of Christmas.

“I’m laden down with candy and all kinds of stuff,” said Santa Claus. “I just love the faces of the kids. I try to catch their eye, especially the little ones, from a year old to two or three years old.

Claus said he specifically enjoys riding in the Florence parade because of the collaborative community effort to make the parade happen.

“The parade grows every year,” he said. “I think last year we had close to 100 entries in the parade. It involves many different groups from the community and student groups from UNA. What’s neat about it is so many people come out and watch the parade, no matter the weather. Even if it’s freezing cold, there are people out there.”

He said people gather in huge crowds on Court Street every year. He agrees with Shields, but said he thinks the headcount is actually closer to 5,000 people.

Claus said he also makes other appearances at events across Florence for the Christmas season.

Shields said she encourages UNA students to attend the parade as a way to unwind after finals and support the community.

Sophomore Bria Paschal said she did not know Florence had a Christmas parade. She said she would attend the parade if she was staying in Florence for Christmas break.

“I think (UNA students) should attend the parade and support the city since UNA is such a big part of Florence,” she said.