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Christmas parade is Saturday
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Inside Wednesday's paper. Your guide to the 2008 Cumming Christmas Parade & Festival.

If you're going 

* The parade is set for 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday along Market Place Boulevard. Contact: (770) 887-6461 or go online at

* For more on the Celebration of Life, which follows the parade at Northside Hospital-Forsyth, click here.

* Going to the parade? Plan ahead and arrive early

The Cumming Christmas Parade & Festival will continue to bring tidings of comfort and joy to thousands of guests Saturday.

But in a struggling economy, the event may also bring cheer to the many merchants along the city's Market Place Boulevard.

Sponsored by the city and the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, the parade winds along the retail corridor between Buford Dam Road and Hwy. 20.

Each year, it draws thousands of spectators, many of whom may stick around for holiday shopping.

James McCoy, the president and chief executive officer of the chamber, said the parade will "bring people's attention to those businesses."

"If there's a time to invest in your local economy by shopping locally, now is the time to do that," he said. "Every dollar you spend here is a tax dollar that is not going somewhere else. This community gets to enjoy the benefit of its own sales tax revenue."

The event is also being promoted through Hospitality Highway, a cooperative marketing program of the cities and counties along Ga. 400.

"With the publicity generated from the Hospitality Highway, we hope some of our other communities will take this opportunity to come visit Cumming and Forsyth County," said Mary Helen McGruder, chairwoman of the chamber's tourism committee.

"We're excited to offer the opportunity to highlight some of our local businesses at the Christmas parade."

McCoy said he is seeing an increase in parade participation, which he said is "reflective of people wanting, as a group, to do something that is less expensive."

After the parade, the festivities continue across Hwy. 20 at Northside Hospital-Forsyth, where the lighting of a Christmas tree and fireworks will close the day.

Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt said it's the city's kickoff for Christmas.

"It's a family type of event and it doesn't cost anything," he said. "I think it will be a bigger event than it was last year ... because people are staying at home because of the economy and the gasoline prices and people without jobs."

Founded in 2000, the parade includes a line of decorated floats, complemented by marching bands, dance troupes and Santa Claus.

"We're pleased that the 2007 participation has increased over 2006, and we think this year will be even stronger as people look to stay close to home," McGruder said.

"This is one of the great holiday events in our region. It's a wonderful and fun celebration for the entire family at absolutely no cost."