The annual Cumming Christmas Parade & Festival returns Saturday with enough fun and festivities to get any Scrooge into the holiday spirit.
The city’s big day begins at 9 a.m. with the Jingle Jog 5K, a fun run that benefits Forsyth County Community Connection.
The nonprofit organization works with the community and local agencies to provide assistance to underserved children and families.
Those who haven’t registered ahead of time can still participate, said Kerry Rosewall, volunteer coordinator.
The route will travel from Cumming Town Center east along the Mary Alice Park Road loop, bringing runners back to the shopping plaza.
“All the race participants are going to get a big jingle bell to have while they’re running,” Rosewall said. “They can hook it to their shoe or around their wrist.
“We anticipate 400 runners jingling down Market Place Boulevard.”
Christmas parade is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m., also from the corner of Market Place and Buford Dam Road.
The parade will feature high school marching bands, colorful floats, dance troupes, elves and a visit from Santa Claus.
“It’s an exciting way to kick off the holidays,” said Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt. “It’s a time to celebrate the meaning of what Christmas is all about.”
The parade also draws visitors to the city. With the route running along Market Place, families often go shopping along the retail-heavy corridor before or after the parade.
“Obviously, we have a sick economy that’s stuck in a rut and certainly the merchants are looking for a busy holiday season,” Gravitt said. “All the indications are that people are going to spend more and celebrate more this year ... hopefully, it will make everybody feel better.”
The parade begins at Buford Dam Road and will travel up Market Place toward Northside Hospital-Forsyth, where the festivities will come to a close with the hospital’s annual tree-lighting celebration.
For the 22nd year, the hospital will light giant Christmas trees atop its campuses in Atlanta, Alpharetta and Cumming.
The Celebration of Lights will begin at 4:30 p.m. and last about two hours. More than 3,000 people, including several entertainment groups such as dance troupes and school choirs, are expected to take part.
Each light on the Christmas tree represents someone whose life has been touched by cancer. Lights can be bought to honor or remember a loved one.
“Northside looks forward to Celebration of Lights every year and to sharing the event with the community,” said Lynn Jackson, hospital administrator. “It’s an exciting way to kick off the holidays.
“Not only does it raise awareness of our growing cancer care services and support our patients, but it also allows us to show our thanks to the community for their continuous support of the hospital throughout the year.”