By Billy Corriher
Santa Claus is coming to Jonesboro Saturday.
The town will officially kick off the holiday season with the Holiday at Home parade, which is expected to be the largest in the event's 11-year history.
Sara Cookson of Arts Clayton, which is sponsoring the parade along with Chic-fil-A, said her organization received 75 applications to be in the parade this year, the most ever.
"There will be over 2,000 people participating," she said. "The parade grows every year. That shows us that this is a real community-wide event."
The parade begins at 4:30 p.m. on Georgia Highway 138 and will follow a route down to North McDonough Street, turn north and then cross over the railroad tracks near the Confederate Memorial Cemetery. The marchers will continue down Main Street before concluding in the South Courthouse Parking lot of the Clayton County Courthouse Annex.
The Lovejoy High School color guard will lead the parade and will be followed by floats from area schools and organizations, clowns, three high school bands and a full-size locomotive, Cookson said.
The parade will also feature Miss Georgia Pre-Teen, the Clayton County Police Department and grand marshal Truett Cathy of Chic-fil-A. A float carrying Santa Claus will bring up the rear of the parade.
The theme for this year's parade is "Deck the Halls," a theme Cookson said will lead to some very creative, interesting floats.
In addition to the parade, there will be a festival beginning at noon on Main Street that will include clowns, an arts and crafts market and activities for children.
"It's more than a parade," Cookson said. "It's really a day to kick off the holiday season."
After the parade, participants and spectators will gather on the lawn of the Historic Courthouse for the lighting of the town's Christmas tree.
A street dance hosted by the city of Jonesboro will follow.
Mistletoe Market, sponsored by Arts Clayton, will be open throughout the festivities offering original works by local artists.
"It's a nice opportunity for the artists to display their work and for people to do their holiday shopping," Cookson said.
The holiday season has already arrived at Southlake Mall.
Santa Claus started receiving visitors at the mall last weekend, and so far, about 50 children have come to see him every day, said Nicole Krajc, Southlake Mall marketing director.
Wreathes and holiday lights line the walls of the mall and a 26-foot inflatable teddy bear greets children coming to see Santa.
The mall is hosting a Breakfast with Santa event on Dec. 6 with storytellers and karaoke singing for children, Krajc said.
"The event's really become a popular tradition."