Carter County’s Chamber of Commerce prepares for upcoming Christmas Parade

This year’s Christmas Parade will last about an hour to an hour and a half, maybe two. For the Carter County Chamber of Commerce, however, the parade is an endeavor that takes months of prep and years of hard work to organize into an art.

Executive Director Tonya Stevens has been working for the chamber for six years and has helped organize the parade for all of them.

“This is definitely for and within the community,” Stevens said.

She said dozens of businesses and organizations sign up for and build floats for the parade, but the theme changes every year. For this year, the theme is “Christmas Stories.”

“We have a list of themes we have already done and themes we want to do in the future,” Stevens said. “By early summer we have pinned down what we want to use.”

She said this year’s parade already features “well over 50” registered floats.

As for the parade itself, Stevens said there is some structure to the order of the floats.

“We always start with the Grand Marshal,” Stevens said. “This year there are two: Carter County R.E.A.D.S. and the Betsy Book Bus.”

After that, she said any visiting dignitaries will follow behind the Grand Marshals.

“Santa is always last,” she said. “He rides on the fire truck at the end.”

In between the marshals and Santa, however, the order is basically random.

Stevens said there are a few rules determining what can and cannot be a part of a float, as well as some safety rules for the onlookers.

For starters, applications to have a float in the parade are due Friday, Nov. 26, at 4 p.m.

“This is so we can organize and communicate everything the participants need ahead of time,” she said.

Secondly, she said to not throw candy from the cars themselves.

“We do not want to pelt a kid in the face with candy,” Stevens said. “If you want to give something out, please hand it to them.”

Finally, she said there are no tight restrictions on decorations beyond following the theme, with one exception.

“There is only one Santa, and he is ours,” she said. “It can be very confusing to the children, so no one can have Santa except us.”

For the onlookers, Stevens stressed the need to stay behind the safety barrier.

“It is there for your protection,” she said.

Stevens said her favorite part of the parade is when she is helping direct traffic.

“You see the kids waving, smiling and singing,” Stevens said. “For a minute, it reminds you of what the season is about: having love and joy in your heart.”

The parade will take place on the first Saturday in December.

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