By Valerie Baldowski
The City of Hampton is preparing for a visit from old Saint Nick.
The Hampton Merchants Association is planning its annual Christmas parade and tree lighting for Dec. 4. The lighting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., followed by a parade at 7 p.m.
As part of the festivities, choirs will be featured from Zion Baptist Church and Hampton United Methodist Church.
The parade will begin from McBrayer Park in downtown Locust Grove, travel down West Main Street, cross East Main Street and return to the park.
Local businesses will enter floats, and an Atlanta Motor Speedway pace car is also expected to be on display.
The tree will be placed at the city's train depot. Santa Claus, played by Conyers resident, Tom Irving, will be riding in a sleigh.
"This year, the big thing in the parade is that we are having live reindeer," said Patti Battle, one of the event organizers.
"After the parade, people will be able to bring their children to have a photo with Santa."
Other attractions will include snow machines, clowns dressed as Santa's helpers, local artist Chris Moore's snowcap effect on downtown buildings, and eight-foot-by-four-foot pieces of wood decorated with a holiday theme.
"They actually look like big Christmas cards from the businesses!" Battle exclaimed. "It's going to be pretty cool."
Afterward, cookies and hot cider will be served. "It's a merchant's open house," she continued.
This year's Santa is expected to be popular. "Not only does he look real, but he is in love with the children," Merchants Association Vice president Britt Evans said. "He just has a blast with them."