By Joel Hall
Preparations are underway for the 16th annual Holiday at Home Parade.
Next Saturday -- just before Thanksgiving -- more than 2,400 marchers and thousands of spectators will crowd the streets of downtown Jonesboro to enjoy the all-day festivities. It is being presented by Arts Clayton, Clayton County, and the City of Jonesboro.
Sara Cookson, programs and events coordinator for Arts Clayton, said, with more than 80 entries, this year's parade is filled to capacity. Among the entries will be floats constructed by various local governments, schools, businesses, and civic organizations; six high school marching bands; eight high school ROTC units; vintage cars; motorcycle groups; a full-sized locomotive on wheels; Sparky the Fire Dog; and Santa Claus himself.
Cookson said the event, which has long served as a way to launch the holiday season in Clayton County, has become a regional event for the southside of Atlanta.
"This is a signature event for Arts Clayton and a spotlight event for Clayton County," said Cookson. "We have entries coming in from as far as Spalding, Coweta, and Fayette [counties]. It's exciting when people from all over the Southern Crescent pull together for an event like this."
The parade will start at 4:30 p.m., on Stockbridge Road near Arnold Elementary School. It will head north on North McDonough Street, turn left at the Confederate Cemetery, head south on Main Street, and end at College Street.
At dusk, Clayton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Eldrin Bell will light the county's ceremonial Christmas Tree on the front lawn of the Historic Clayton County Courthouse.
Prior to the parade, the City of Jonesboro will host the Main Street Festival at noon. The event will feature a variety of arts, crafts, and food vendors, pony rides, a rock-climbing walls, and the Mistletoe Market taking place inside Arts Clayton.
Jonesboro Mayor Luther Maddox said the parade serves as the city's largest and most anticipated festival of the year. "I like to see people come out and get involved in their community, and this is one of our better tools to do that," said Maddox. "I want people to be proud of the town and have a sense of community pride. When we have the parade, everybody comes out and lines the streets."
After the lighting of the tree, Jonesboro will host its Holiday Street Dance, in which citizens will be invited to dance in the streets to popular music of the season.
This year's parade will feature awards for the best entries, with higher purses than the year before. There will be a "Battle of the Bands" competition, in which the winning high school band will get $500.
The parade also will feature a special "Sesquicentennial Float" celebrating the 150th anniversary of Clayton County. The birthday-cake shaped float will herald a year-long celebration, with anniversary-related events scheduled throughout the year.
Jane Glaze, chairperson of the Celebrate Clayton 150 Committee, said the float will impart to citizens that the future of Clayton County is bright.
"We have reasons to celebrate the county," said Glaze. "Let's not look at everything that has happened. Let's look at what is going to happen in this county. Our past is wonderful, our present is good, and our future is going to be excellent."