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Parade today, tree lighting tonight
Cumming welcomes Christmas
Parade WEB
Emily Centers, left, and Lauren Beiring, participate in last year’s Cumming Christmas Parade & Festival. This year’s festivities are Saturday. - photo by File photo

The festivities may be ringing in the holiday season, but the weather likely will be more fitting for spring than winter.

The National Weather Service predicts clear, sunny skies and high temperatures  over 60 degrees on Saturday for the Cumming Christmas Parade & Festival.

Anna Brostrom with the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce said she hopes that forecast will draw larger crowds.

“The best news is how wonderful the weather’s going to be,” she said. “With such nice weather, we’re hoping for larger crowds than we’ve ever had.”

Cumming Mayor H. For Gravitt agreed.

“It’ll probably be the best crowd we’ve ever had,” he said. “As far as the weather, we couldn’t ask for anything better.”

The parade begins at 3:30 p.m. and runs along Market Place Boulevard.

Cumming Police Sgt. Bryan Zimbardi said the bustling retail corridor will be closed from 3 to 5 p.m. In addition, vehicles will not be allowed to cross from one side to the other.

“The primary message is you need to be where you need to be by 3 p.m.,” Zimbardi said. “It’ll be no nonsense. The road is shutting down at 3.”

He said the biggest safety concern during the procession is watching for children who may get in its path.

In the past, however, there have been enough officers monitoring the route to make sure things run smoothly.

Zimbardi said the best place to sit and watch the parade is probably near Walmart, although the route spans from Buford Dam Road to Hwy. 20.

Brostom said there will be plenty to watch since the parade will feature numerous local performance groups, including the Forsyth Central High School Flash of Crimson Marching Band and cheerleaders, as well as Piney Grove Middle School’s winter guard group.

There will also be a number of floats from government entities, nonprofit groups and businesses.

“Judging of the floats will be done just prior to the parade, so the winners will be wearing their ribbons during the parade,” Brostrom said.

She said prizes will be given for: Best use of Christmas theme; most original; most creative; and best overall.

Brostrom said leaders are pleased to have a new title sponsor of this year’s parade: Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

The pediatric facility opened a Forsyth location earlier this year.

“Christmas is such a special time for children and if it’s important to children, it’s important to us,” said Linda Cole, vice president of trauma and emergency services with Children’s.

Other festivities Saturday kick off at 9 a.m. with the second annual Jingle Jog 5K, a fundraiser for Forsyth County Community Connection.

The organization seeks to create and coordinate paths between nonprofit agencies in the county and families in need.

The run will begin at Cumming Town Center and travel east down Mary Alice Park Road, looping back around to the starting point.

After the parade that afternoon, spectators are asked to travel across Highway 20 to Northside Hospital-Forsyth for its annual Celebration of Lights.

Katherine Watson, a spokeswoman for the hospital, said the celebration will include a number of performances from such local groups as Sawnee Ballet, First Baptist Church of Cumming’s hand bell choir, Synergy Cloggers and Settles Bridge, Coal Mountain and Haw Creek elementary schools.

The event will also feature photos with Santa Claus, arts and crafts, a petting zoo and holiday bazaar.

The celebration will be capped off at 6:30 p.m. with the lighting of Northside’s giant Christmas tree.

All the lights on the tree represent those who have battled cancer.

Gravitt said he looks forward to the parade and other happenings.

“I always enjoy getting to go through the parade and see everybody … all the kids are excited about all the festivities and getting to see Santa Claus,” he said.

“The day always gives us that holiday, festive feeling.”

Staff writer Julie Arrington contributed to this report.