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Christmas parade coming Saturday
Festival of Lights to follow at hospital
Parade WEB
Vicky Edwards, left, and Jullianne Grogan watch the 2011 Cumming Christmas Parade on Market Place Boulevard. - photo by File photo

If you’re going

• What: Cumming Christmas Parade & Festival

• When: Jingle Jog 5K at 9 a.m.; parade at 3:30 p.m.; Northside Hospital-Forsyth Celebration of Lights 4:30-6:30 p.m.

• Where: Market Place Boulevard and Northside Hospital-Forsyth

Santa will make an early stop in Cumming this weekend.

On Saturday, the jolly man in red will be among the numerous participants in the annual Cumming Christmas Parade & Festival along Market Place Boulevard.  

The day’s festivities kick off with the Jingle Jog 5K run benefiting Forsyth County Community Connection, which pairs the needs of nonprofit organizations with volunteers.

Run registration begins at 7:30 a.m., with the start at 9 a.m.

Last year the run drew about 500 runners and this year’s goal is 700.

At 3:30 p.m., the seventh annual parade begins.

The route runs from Market Place and Buford Dam Road up to Hwy. 20.

Anna Barlow, tourism director with the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, said she’s hoping this year’s parade will set new records.

“Last year, [Chief of Police Casey Tatum] said it was largest we’ve ever had,” she said. “We estimated between 4,000 and 5,000 spectators.

“This year should be even better because we’re supposed to have beautiful weather.”

Barlow said about 45 different groups have signed up to take part in the parade. They include marching bands, dance groups, businesses and civic organizations.

Those who create floats will compete for the prizes of most original, best use of Christmas theme, and best all around.

Winners will be presented with ribbons prior to the procession so they can show off their awards to spectators along the route.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Forsyth will be sponsoring the parade for the second year in a row.

Beth Buursema, community outreach liaison with the facility, said doing so makes sense.

“It just seems like a natural fit for us,” she said. “There’s nothing more satisfying to anyone than seeing the smiling faces of kids enjoying something like a Christmas parade.

“It’s our goal every day to put smiles on kids’ faces or try to help keep them there even when they’re sick. So being able to share in the parade and seeing all those smiles is a huge blessing for us and we enjoy it every year.”

After the parade, spectators are invited to journey across Hwy. 20 to Northside Hospital-Forsyth for its annual Celebration of Lights.

The event, which runs from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., features a number of local school and performance groups, a petting zoo, refreshments and arts and crafts activities for kids, all of which are free.

Photos with Santa will also be available for $5 for two.

The Celebration of Lights’ main feature, though, is the lighting of the hospital’s giant roof-top Christmas tree.

All the lights on the tree have been purchased in memory or honor of someone who battled cancer.

“It’s a great reminder of the hope and promise that the holiday season can bring, which is what we want for everyone affected by cancer,” said Lynn Jackson, administrator of the hospital.

All proceeds from the Celebration of Lights benefit hospital cancer programs.

Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt said he looks forward to the Christmas Parade & Festival every year.

“For somebody who’s never been, they should definitely come because it’s a real, homegrown, hometown parade that the whole community supports,” he said.