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Holiday season starts with annual Albany Christmas parade (PHOTO GALLERY)

The 23rd Christmas parade draws nearly 40,000 to downtown Albany

The Sizzlin Sistas of the Red Hat Society waive to crowds as part of this year’s Albany Christmas Parade. (Staff Photo: Brad McEwen)

The Sizzlin Sistas of the Red Hat Society waive to crowds as part of this year’s Albany Christmas Parade. (Staff Photo: Brad McEwen)

ALBANY — Despite the threat of rain ,the 23rd Albany Christmas parade was another success as thousands flocked to downtown Albany to spend an evening of holiday cheer with their friends and neighbors.

The parade began at 6 p.m. Saturday and took its usual course east down Pine Avenue, past the courthouse and then south down Washington Street.

Organized annually by Albany’s Water, Gas and Light Commission, the parade is handled almost entirely by volunteers and for many in Albany serves as the official kickoff for Christmas.

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Always a highlight of the annual Albany Christmas Parade, Santa and Mrs. Clause waive to crowds Saturday night. (Staff Photo: Brad McEwen)

“It’s hundreds and hundreds of volunteers that make it a success,” said WG&L Assistant Manager of Customer Relations and Marketing Lori Farkas. “It just takes so many hands to put this on and it’s a effort of passion. Everyone’s passionate about doing it and it really kicks off the Christmas season for so many people.”

Those who attended were treated to Christmas spectacle that featured more than 70 entries, including marching bands, civic clubs, a bagpiper, a live rock ‘n’ roll performance from local band Unbreakable Bloodline (UBL) riding atop a flatbed truck, and the most important entrants of all — Santa and Mrs. Claus pulled by Santa’s reindeer capping off the procession.

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The Albany State University Marching Rams wow onlookers at the annual Albany Christmas Parade Saturday night. (Staff Photo: Brad McEwen)

“It was fabulous, absolutely fabulous,” said Farkas. “Really, I think the floats were the best they’ve ever been. People have just really outdone themselves this year.”

Many in attendance agreed with Farkas’ assessment, saying they had a great time and enjoyed all the various floats.

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Petty’s Preschool was one of 73 entrants in this Albany Christmas parade. (Staff Photo: Brad McEwen)

“I really thought the band playing on the truck was neat,” said Sarah Jackson, of Albany. “My kids were excited to see Santa though. You can’t beat Santa.”

A few lucky children, much to their delight, actually got to spend the entire parade riding along with Santa. Seven-year-old Cadence McClung, of Leesburg, said it was the most fun she’s ever had coming to the parade.

“The best part was being on the float with Santa,” she said.

In planning most of the year, organizers have one thing they can’t control — the weather. As it rained all week, organizers were concerned that might continue Saturday night and put a damper on the festivities. Fortunately, none of the wet stuff fell and the event went off without a hitch.

“We prayed all week about rain,” Farkas said. “Thankfully, we had no rain at all. It turned out to be a very nice night.”

Farkas said she and the other volunteers will begin planning next year’s parade in January and have already gotten some of the major details out of the way.

“We meet year round,” said Farkas. “We’ve already got next year’s theme. We’ll meet again in January and then we’ll meet all throughout the year ‘til the next parade.”

Farkas made a point to thank volunteers several times and asked that anyone interested in helping with next year’s parade please contact Water, Gas and Light for more information.