Albany, Leesburg parades to usher in holiday season

Dec 02, 2015

By Jennifer Parks, Albany Herald

ALBANY — The first weekend in December is again bringing to Albany and Leesburg annual Christmas parades to kick off the holiday season.

Early in the day Saturday will be Leesburg’s 27th “Spirit of Christmas” parade to be held in conjunction with a downtown festival on Starksville Avenue. The festival will be from 8 a.m.-2 p.m., featuring live entertainment, food vendors and arts and crafts vendors. The entertainment lined up includes The Dance Company, the fourth-grade Twin Oaks Elementary School Performance Music Group, Broadway Bound Musical Theatre, the Lee County High School chorus and the high school’s jazz band.

The parade will begin at 10 a.m. from Peach Avenue and Main Street near Lee County High and go to the courthouse. Lesley Barbosa, director of operations for the Lee County Chamber of Commerce, said about 100 entries are expected — including appearances from public safety agencies, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, The Grinch, the Hasan Shriners, the Lee County High marching band, antique tractors, the Artesian Car Club and the Corvette club.

Santa Claus will be the grand marshal, with Kurt Baker and Lisa Davis acting as master and mistress of ceremonies, Barbosa said. Doughnuts, Chick-fil-A biscuits and hot cocoa will be among the food items sold on site, she added.

The annual Doggie Pet Parade opens for registration at 12:30 p.m. in time for the 1 p.m. event. All dogs participating are required to be up-to-date on their vaccinations and be on a leash at all times, and are allowed to wear holiday attire. The entry fee is $5, to go toward the Lee County Animal Shelter, and judging will be in three categories — small, medium and large, Barbosa said.

During the festival, donations of unwrapped toys will be accepted at the Chamber’s booth for the foster children living in Lee County. Children will also be able to find pony rides and train rides, and a few other fun activities, Barbosa said.

“It will be a fun, family day,” she said.

On the same day as the festival, the 20th annual “Breakfast with Santa” is planned for 7:30 a.m.-10 a.m. at Lee County High. For $3 per child, or $5 for larger adult portions, families will get to visit with Santa and have a plate of pancakes and sausage.

Later on Saturday, Albany’s 25th annual “Celebration of Lights” will taking place downtown starting at 6 p.m. The theme this year is “Silver Bells In The City,” and the event will include pre-parade entertainment, food and crafts, the annual Christmas tree dedication and an appearance by Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Entertainment from roughly 20 Albany area acts will run from 5 p.m.-5:45 p.m., which will be followed by the parade and tree lighting. The tree is expected to be dedicated to Chuck Mitchell, a retired public safety official who has helped organize the parade since its beginning in 1990.

“(Chuck Mitchell) worked on the parade for 25 years and moved to Florida,” said Lorie Farkas, coordinator of the Albany parade. “We are honoring him and his family for all the work he did in the parade.”

Now a regional parade, the Albany event is expected to bring in 40,000 people. It will start at Pine Avenue and Monroe Street and go down Pine, southward on Washington Street to West Broad Avenue and to Jefferson Street. High school bands from the area, choruses, businesses, churches, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts are among the groups expected to participate, Farkas said.

It is an event that takes a year-long planning process, and it has started to have a generational impact.

“Children came when they were young, and now they are back with their own children,” Farkas said. “I think that is pretty phenomenal.”

Aside from the community bond it forms, the idea behind “Celebration of Lights” is to demonstrate that downtown Albany is a safe place, Farkas said.

“It’s been successful in making a shared memory,” she said. “It brings everyone together … and it shows downtown is safe.

“We want everyone to come and kick of the season with a wonderful night.”

Farkas added that lawn chairs are encouraged.

For more information on the Leesburg parade, call (229) 759-2422. For more information on the Albany festivities, call (229) 883-8330 or email

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