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Come all ye faithful ... but come early
Crowds will pack Market Place for parade Saturday
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Forsyth County News

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* For more on the Cumming Christmas Parade & Festival, click here.

* To learn more about the Celebration of Lights, go here.

* The 2008 guide to both events is available at the Forsyth County News, 302 Veterans Memorial Blvd. in Cumming, (77)) 887-3126.

Folks feeling blue this holiday season may get just the jolt they need Saturday at the Cumming Christmas Parade & Festival.

The parade, which begins at 3:30 p.m., is expected to draw a crowd of several thousand people as it makes its way up Market Place Boulevard, from Buford Dam Road to Hwy. 20.

Northside Hospital-Forsyth's annual Celebration of Lights, featuring entertainment, arts and crafts and a tree-lighting ceremony, follows the parade at 4:30 p.m.

Parade parking will be available at the many shops and restaurants along the bustling Market Place corridor, which will close to traffic about 3:15 p.m.

For that reason, Cumming Police Chief Mike Eason said, those planning to shop or watch the parade should get there early.

Russ Hilsher, manager of the Wal-Mart on Market Place, agreed.

"It will be full, so come early if you want a spot," he said.

Eason said every business will have a way to get out "with the exception of those right where the parade starts, and we'll work to get those people out as quickly as we can."

He said businesses on the east side of Market Place, including Wal-Mart, will be accessible from Hwy. 20 and Sanders Road. Shoppers also will be able to reach Lowe's and others on the west side from Hwy. 20.

Access will be restricted to some retailers on Market Place, including Target, though Eason said exits will be available. The road will reopen once the parade is finished.

"The good thing is if you plan your shopping trip around it, you can go to whatever store you want to, park in their lot and then walk over and watch the parade and your car is right there," Eason said.

"A lot of people will get there early and park along the side and put their chairs out. It's just a good time. It's going to be 51 degrees and sunny, so we're looking for a big turnout, and Santa will be here."

Eason said Cumming police will work with the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office, Georgia State Patrol and the Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT.

"CERT will be working all the driveways along the route and will give people information on how they can exit from the parking lot," Eason said.

Hilsher said shoppers not interested in last year's festivities were able to leave the parking lot through the back. He didn't get any complaints of customers being stuck.

The parade is a fun community event, Hilsher said, a good way to "get everybody in the spirit" for Christmas.

"It was lined up pretty thick all the way down Market Place Boulevard (last year), so I would expect the same thing [Saturday]" he said.

With the exception of Santa Claus, the parade will not cross Hwy. 20 to Northside-Forsyth. And Eason advised against walking to the hospital from the parade.

"It probably will be safer for someone to drive over and get in a parking lot over there," he said.