Festival of Lights: West Alabama Christmas Parade Kicks off Holiday Season

Thousands of area residents come out each year to see the Christmas parade – the largest of its kind in West Alabama. Thousands of area residents come out each year to see the Christmas parade – the largest of its kind in West Alabama. Tuscaloosa County Park & Recreation Authority

PARA’s West Alabama Christmas Parade is set to roll on Dec. 3, kicking off the holiday season for area residents. This year’s parade, with its theme “Festival of Lights,” begins at 6:30 p.m., moving along Greensboro Avenue and University Boulevard, where thousands of Tuscaloosa residents will gather to watch.

Becky Booker with PARA said this is the 43rd annual parade, and one that is sure to be memorable.

“Childhood experiences of hometown parades create memories that last a lifetime,” Booker said. “From twinkling lights and friends in Santa hats, to beauty queens atop convertibles, to the sounds of choirs and marching bands, all create magical memories of Christmas.”

To kick off the parade, there will be a tree lighting ceremony at the Tuscaloosa County Courthouse at 5:15 p.m. The 40-foot live tree, which is donated by a county resident, will be decorated with over 1,200 ornaments and lights. Several county and city school choirs will also perform traditional Christmas carols.

Each year, Grand Marshals are chosen to be honored at the parade. They flip the switch during the tree lighting ceremony. These are typically members of the community that have played a part in making an impact on Tuscaloosa. Last year’s Grand Marshals were Virgie Greene, Rev. Thomas Linton, Shelley Jones, and Dee Ward. The first Grand Marshal of the parade was Paul “Bear” Bryant, in 1976.

“PARA’s West Alabama Christmas Parade is the largest of its kind in Alabama and a tremendous collaboration from the entire community,” Booker said. “In addition to PARA staff on hand that night are first responders from Tuscaloosa, Northport, and Tuscaloosa County, WVUA 23 is onsite for a live broadcast of the parade in its entirety, TDOT staff, students from kindergarten through collegiate levels, business owners, civic, sports teams, religious and hobby groups, and elected officials. Participation is truly representative of our community.”

Spectators can park for free in the city’s intermodal parking facility, or in spots along the parade route. Turnout is always high, so Booker encourages families to come early and make the most of their night downtown by eating or shopping.

While the parade route remains unchanged from past years, the construction on Lurleen Wallace Boulevard downtown is of some concern. Some behind-the-scenes logistics have been changed, and spectators are encouraged to be extra careful walking and driving near construction areas.

All parade information and more is available by visiting tcpara.org.

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