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Parade, tree lighting ring in start to season
web gravitt
Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt waves as he rides a float leading the parade. - photo by Jennifer Sami

Float winners

• The following awards were announced for the parade in Cumming:

• Best overall — Sawnee EMC

• Best use of a Christmas theme — Willowbrook Academy

• Most creative — Girl Scouts Float, “Letters to Santa, Scout Wishes”

• Most original — “SOAR Express,” Forsyth Board of Education

• Honorable mention — Boy Scout Pack 39

Source: Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce

•   •   •

Jingle Jog, by the numbers

• Participants —500

• Money raised — $15,000

• Best costumes — Banks & Stubbs LLP

• Best team spirit — Jason Taylor Moving & Storage

• Fastest male overall — Josh Thompson

• Fastest female overall — Dixie Brown

Source: Forsyth County Community Connection

Surrounded by friends and family, breast cancer survivor Virginia Phillips pulled a lever lighting the giant tree atop Northside Hospital-Forsyth on Saturday night.

“I’m an example of hope,” she said after the tree lighting. “When I was faced with cancer, I was a little scared. But it’s nice to know that there was a little four-letter-word named hope that helped me make it through all this.

“And tonight, I think this tree represents hope for all those that are faced with cancer.”

The hospital’s annual Celebration of Lights event welcomed hundreds of people and capped off a full day of family events and activities in Forsyth County.

The festivities began with the Jingle Jog 5K run, benefiting Forsyth County Community Connection, which acts as a liaison between volunteers and nonprofit organizations.

In total, 72 medals were awarded for top three finishers in various age groups, said Nicole Morgan, executive director of the local Community Connection.

“It was a lot of fun and a great opportunity to encourage people to come out, be healthy and also buy local,” Morgan said. “A lot of our sponsors, as well as shopping center participants, donated coupons so that hopefully runners would stay in the area in partnership with all the Christmas parade activities and Celebration of Lights and would consider spending those dollars … for the holidays to help boost our local economy. So it was a win-win all the way around.”

The run was followed by the seventh annual Cumming Christmas Parade & Festival which traveled along Market Place Boulevard between Buford Dam Road and Hwy. 20.

Families lined up along the sidewalk of the busy retail corridor to collect candy and wave to passing floats, cars, unicycles and, of course, Santa Claus.

The parade took families toward the hospital, just as the Celebration of Lights was beginning.

Under a tent in the hospital parking lot, there were beverages, tasty treats, face painting and craft activities.

There was also a petting zoo next to the tent where Judy Garner’s granddaughter Marissa Brooks was spending time with a pony.

“We’ve had a lot of fun today, especially out here with the animals,” Garner said about her granddaughter. “I think this is really well organized.”

Jenny Boisseau’s sons Cole, 4, and Jude, 1, had a great time at the event.

“It’s great for the kids in just celebrating the season,” she said.

Terry Wenham, known as Magic Charley, approached children and adults with fun magic tricks during the celebration.

Wenham, who has participated in the event for many years, said it’s as much fun for him as the families.

“It’s just to see their faces and their amazement, the wow factor,” he said. “Just to see that and that everybody’s having a good time with it.”

Despite the music, food and fun, the two-hour event was designed to bring families to Northside to support and recognize those affected by cancer, said Lynn Jackson, hospital administrator.

“Just to have this much community support is fabulous and the tree lighting represents hope to all those patients that are continuing to be affected by cancer and we just want to continue to have community support for them,” Jackson said.

“I’m always so excited to see the tree light up. It makes you feel like you’re in the holiday season, but it also helps you remember what it’s for and the significance of how that affects families.”