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Parade floats in Saturday

The sights and sounds of Albany’s Christmas parade light up downtown as parade participants make their way along a spectator-lined Pine Avenue. The 2012 Christmas parade is Dec.1, beginning at 6 p.m.

The sights and sounds of Albany’s Christmas parade light up downtown as parade participants make their way along a spectator-lined Pine Avenue. The 2012 Christmas parade is Dec.1, beginning at 6 p.m.

ALBANY, Ga. — Two unlikely pals, a “lion” and a “lamb” claim the lead position at the upcoming City of Albany Celebration of Lights Parade.

The collection of bands, floats celebrities and general attractions is scheduled to make its way through downtown Albany at 6 p.m. Saturday for the 21st time consecutive year.

With weather expected to be clear and a little cold, WG&L officials are expecting upwards of 40,000 spectators turning out for the sights and sounds of Christmas.

“We’re celebrating the 75th anniversary of Chehaw Park this year,” said Lori Farkas, WG&L spokesperson, “and so the animal mascots are appropriate.”

Farkas said the official theme of the parade this year will be “All Creatures Great and Small,” a line from a hymn written by Cecil F. Alexander in 1848.

“I don’t believe in coincidence,” Farkas said. “That’s a theme we’ve wanted to use for a long time, and it just got shelved every year for one reason or another. It seemed just perfect for the Chehaw celebration, especially with Jim Fowler as grand marshal.”

Fowler, an Albanian and acclaimed naturalist, achieved national fame as co-host of Mutual of Omaha’s “Wild Kingdom”, and as a frequent guest on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson. Fowler was instrumental in the planning and formation of Chehaw Park and continues to be involved in the local attraction.

According to Farkas, Fowler will be awarded a key to the city. U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop will read a Congressional proclamation commending Fowler for his work.

“Albany has never really recognized Jim Fowler for the work he’s done,” Farkas said, “and it’s time we showed our appreciation. He’s been a local and international icon for 50 years.”

This year’s parade is dedicated to Cliff Rouse, the Dougherty County police officer killed last year in the line of duty. His widow and two children will flip the switch for the official Christmas tree, a 25 foot red-tipped cedar, illuminating the tree and its surroundings with more than 10,000 LEDs.

“As usual, there will be a fireworks display,” said Farkas. “Spectators will experience more than 100 parade entries, including floats, bands, horses, entertainers and exotic animals. There will food venders as well.”

Farkas was instrumental in re-starting the annual parade in 1990, after years without one, she said. According to Farkas she felt the event to be important to the vitality of downtown Albany. She also wanted to be sure that everyone in the area had a chance to experience something of Christmas.

“It’s shared memories like these that make a family unit,” Farkas said.

Farkas expressed appreciation to the parade committee and the “hundreds of volunteers” who made it possible.

“A lot of groups and individuals come together to make this possible,” Farkas said, “and they all deserve a big thank you.”

The two-mile parade will begin at 6 p.m., and will be preceded by live performances beginning at 5 p.m. at the 200 block of Pine and Broad Avenues, Farkas said.