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Christmas parade steps off tonight in downtown Kannapolis

By Hugh Fisher
hfisher@salisburypost.com
KANNAPOLIS ń Christmas spirit has come to Kannapolis.
Tonight at 6 p.m., the annual Kannapolis Christmas Parade organized by the Cabarrus Events Association will line downtown streets with crowds to cheer St. Nick.
And last Saturdayís Kannapolis Christmas festival, put on by the cityís Parks and Recreation department, drew some 6,000 to Village Park for music, rides, fireworks and a tree-lighting ceremony.
The second annual installment of A Kannapolis Christmas at Village Park beat all expectations, said Becky Tolle, recreation and special events coordinator.
Last yearís festival was hit by freezing rain and sleet, which kept crowds at home.
But last Saturdayís event packed the park.
At times, lines stretched 20 to 30 people deep for carnival rides and refreshments.
Tolle said that was a sign the cityís Christmas cheer was on track.
ěThereís nothing negative about a long line. Long lines are fantastic. They show there are people who are interested in being a part of it,î Tolle said.
She said music by local entertainers combined well with the cityís popular downtown fireworks and the displays by vendors and community groups.
ěEverything combined made it successful,î Tolle said. ěIt was wonderful to have so many different groups want to participate in the festival.î
Parks and Recreation Director Gary Mills was out of the office Friday and could not immediately be reached for comment.
Looking ahead to next year, Tolle said there hadnít been any discussions yet about additions or changes to the festival.
The Christmas cheer continues through Dec. 30 with the Winterland Express train and the ongoing light displays throughout the Village Park.
ěItís really good for the community to have a place to come and enjoy, and itís relatively inexpensive if not free,î Tolle said.
Families can ride the train through a forest of Christmas lights for $2 per person from 6 to 9:30 p.m. every night except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Cocoa and hot coffee will be on sale at the Village Park concession stand.
And, Tolle said, for a limited time buy-one-get-one-free coupons for train rides are available on the ěCelebration of Lightsî page at kannapolischristmas.com.
Brenda Drye of the Cabarrus Events Association, organizer of tonightís Kannapolis parade, said this yearís 74th annual event will be bigger than any in recent years.
She estimated entries at 142, about 20 more than last year.
While itís tough to say how many will come downtown for the parade, Drye said the annual event is as important for downtown businesses as it is for community spirit.
ěFor a lot of the businesses, itís advertising the business, but I think itís also to be a part of a community event and tradition,î Drye said.
This year, five area high school bands will march: A.L. Brown, Northwest Cabarrus, North Stanly, J.C. Carson and North Rowan.
ěWeíve got plenty of music,î Drye said.
She said she hasnít seen all of the floats just yet, but looks forward to seeing how people have used their imagination with Christmas lights.
All entries are required to be lighted.
The 2011 grand marshal is Marvin Brothers, the 96-year-old founder of Brothers Tire in Kannapolis.
Drye said Brothers was being honored for his long-standing service to the community.
In addition to floats and bands, Drye said the Rowan Saddle Club will ride horses in this yearís parade, just before Santaís sleigh arrives.
With all this, Drye said she believes the parade and A Kannapolis Christmas complement one another.
ěTo me, the Christmas festival gives everybody something to participate in,î Drye said.
ěI wish they could be on the same day. I think the tree-lighting ceremony would be really good after the parade.î
However, Drye said the Cabarrus Events Association canít change the parade date because of the availability of professional floats.
Tolle said the parade gives families ěyet another chance to celebrate the season.î
And, Tolle said, Village Park will also provide a venue for othersí Christmas celebrations.
For example, on Dec. 17 the Compass Agency of Kannapolis will hold its Nativity Night at Village Park starting at 4 p.m.
ěItís just an all-encompassing, something-for-everyone month of activities,î Tolle said.
More information on the Winterland Express and Village Park celebrations is available at www.kannapolischristmas.com or at 704-920-4343.
For information on tonightís Kannapolis Christmas Parade, go to www.cabarrusevents.org or call 704-932-3808.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editorís desk at 704-797-4244.

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