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Celebration of Lights Parade wows crowd

Santa and Mrs. Claus wave to the crowd as they ride on their float in the Albany Celebration of Lights parade.

Santa and Mrs. Claus wave to the crowd as they ride on their float in the Albany Celebration of Lights parade.

ALBANY, Ga. -- With the lighting of the Christmas tree to the right of the Albany-Dougherty Judicial Building, the annual Albany Celebration of Lights Parade broke a little tradition.

photo

Joe Bellacomo

Murphy Dance Studio dancers perform during the start of Albany’s annual Celebration of Lights Christmas parade on Pine Avenue Saturday night.

The other traditions including Kurt Baker as master of ceremonies, floats, Christmas songs by marching bands, dancing elves, superhero characters in costume and candy for kids of all ages, remained in the celebration.

A parade tradition for the Solomon sisters, Rebecca and Ivory, found them on the bleachers way before the festivities began.

"Seats. We are here early to get seats for the parade," said Rebecca Solomon. "We like the seats here at this spot."

photo

Joe Bellacomo

Albany High School Marching Chiefs perform in Albany’s annual Celebration of Lights Christmas parade on Pine Avenue Saturday night.

They also said they like the little break with tradition that made the tree more visible when lit to spectators and the judges in their seats.

Previously, for maybe 20 years, the tree had sat in the center of the judicial building's east and west wings, said radio personality Baker. Then someone planted leafy trees in the area in front of where the Christmas tree always went.

Time passed and those trees grew to obscure most of the Christmas tree when it was placed in its traditional center spot. In order to see past those trees in previous years, staff used leaf blowers to shake the leaves off the trees for a clear view.

"The trees grew so much that it was better to put the Christmas tree on the side," Baker said. "The judges stands are on the opposite side of the street so they can see the tree without turning around. Works for everyone."

Following the Water, Gas & Light tradition, employees and their children volunteered to dress up in costumes to have their pictures taken with children of all ages.

The superheroes greeted everyone they could while other costumed characters gave out candy. Captain America, a friendly Hulk, Spiderman and others all entertained.

Carrying bags of candy, Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer, led a pack of 10 other prancing reindeer, also with red noses, to distribute candy among the children.

A new WG&L employee who volunteered to dress the reindeer part said it was fun for the crowd and for herself.

photo

Joe Bellacomo

Singer Macy Martin, 17, performs “Santa Baby” before the start of Albany’s elebration of Lights Christmas parade.

"I'm an Albany resident and it was really fun to get in costume and do all the makeup with my friends," said Ayenha Whitaker. "I can't wait to give out the candy."

Candy played a part in the seating choice of Wilbert Wright. He perched on the back of his pickup with his nieces and a nephew.

"I think it is better to do it this way than sit in the bleachers," Wright said. "This way when the children go for the candy, we just walk up to the road instead of climbing down the bleachers."

Whether sitting in bleachers or standing along the road, the audience enjoyed the music of Christmas by marching bands, including the Westover High School Band and the Dougherty High School Band.

The Dougherty High band did double duty Saturday. It also played at a 10 a.m. Leary Christmas parade.

Typical of seasonal songs played by all the bands, Elizabeth Paschal, band color guard director, said her band would play a medley of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," "Angels Heard on High," and "Jingle Bells."

All in all, one could say it was a time of "Joy to the World" in Albany.