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Annual parade nears
City greets season with procession, tree lighting
Christmas cover 09
For a map of the parade route and more, see the Christmas parade section in Wednesday's edition of the Forsyth County News. - photo by Submitted
Organizers are making final preparations for the annual Cumming Christmas Parade & Festival on Saturday.

Sponsored by the city of Cumming and the Cumming-Forsyth Chamber of Commerce, the parade will kick off at 3:30 p.m. at Market Place Boulevard and Buford Dam Road.

The procession will continue up Market Place before ending at Hwy. 20.

Northside Hospital-Forsyth’s annual Celebration of Lights follows the parade.

More than 70 groups and floats are expected to participate in the procession, said April Rains, event organizer.

The parade will open with North Forsyth High School’s marching band, end with Santa and have many holiday-themed goodies in between, including a new balloon.

“I know it sounds cliche,” Rains said, “but this really will be the best year yet.”

She suggested parade-goers arrive before 3 p.m. to ensure a good spot. Parking is available in the shopping centers along Market Place.

Rains encouraged visitors to bring lawn chairs and bags for collecting candy thrown during the parade.

The procession is expected to have twice as many participants as last year, as well as a larger crowd, said James McCoy.

McCoy, the chamber’s president and chief executive officer, plans to attend the parade, after which he will announce the float winners at the hospital event.

Parade-goers can come early to visit local businesses and some of the community organizations that will set up in the parking lots, McCoy said.

Also, some merchants will have special happenings or deals before and after the parade.

“Our hope is that folks will come out to the parade and use that time to go shopping and spend time with family,” McCoy said.

The Celebration of Lights at Northside begins at 4:30 p.m.

The event, which helps raise money for the hospital’s Cancer Care Program, will feature refreshments, children’s activities and performances from local groups.

The parade and celebration work together to make a great day of local holiday festivities, said Katherine Watson, a hospital spokeswoman.

The celebration will culminate at 6:30 p.m. with the rooftop tree-lighting ceremony.

Each of the three Northside Hospital campuses features a tree, where the lights represent the lives of those who have battled or are battling cancer.

Donors can buy two lights for $25. Most of the money raised happens at the Forsyth event, Watson said, though people can make donations any time during the holiday season.

“[Cancer] patients in previous years have said looking outside the window and seeing the Christmas tree lit gives them a sense of hope,” Watson said.

Both of Saturday’s events will help lift the spirits of the local community at a time when people may need a little cheer.

“It just feels good right now,” McCoy said. “I think people need Christmas right now.”