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Albany preparing for 23rd annual Christmas parade

The 2013 Celebration of Lights Christmas Parade will begin at 6 p.m., Dec. 7 in downtown Albany. (File photo)

The 2013 Celebration of Lights Christmas Parade will begin at 6 p.m., Dec. 7 in downtown Albany. (File photo)

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Joe Courson (Special photo: The Tifton Gazette)

ALBANY — The city of Albany will host its annual Christmas parade on Dec. 7 as an official kick off into the holiday season.

The 2013 Celebration of Lights Parade will start at 6 p.m. in downtown Albany. Pre-parade festivities will begin at 5 p.m. in the 200 blocks of Pine and Broad Avenue. This year’s parade theme is “The 12 Days of Christmas.” WG&L officials are accepting applications for parade floats until Dec. 2.

Now in its 23rd year, the parade is sponsored by Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission. A Toys for Tots booth will be available for attendees to drop off an unwrapped toy or donation.

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Mari Wright (File photo)

“The parade is a gift from WG&L and the city to Albany and Southwest Georgia,” said Mari Wright, customer relations and marketing assistant for WG&L.

With an average of 40,000 in attendance, the parade is downtown’s most-attended single event.

“It’s a great economic development opportunity, because it gives people a chance to see what downtown has to offer,” said Lorie Farkas, assistant general manager of the WG&L Commission.

The city’s official Christmas tree will be lit prior to the parade in between the Albany Government Center and the Dougherty County Schools Administration building. This year’s tree will be lit in memory of Joe Courson, who died this past summer at age 62.

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Lorie Farkas (File photo)

Along with being a longtime Albany area journalist, Courson worked with the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in Tifton for 28 years, and served as its extension communications director.

Part of Courson’s professional duties also included live coverage the Albany Christmas parade.

“Joe loved this parade,” said Farkas. “He would get so excited about everything, jumping up on the floats and bringing an infectious energy that just made everyone around him feel excited too.

“With the Christmas tree lighting, we try to find someone to honor who needs uplifting or has done something recognizable. It’s nice to be able to honor Courson’s memory in this way, because he was such a vital part of the parade and our volunteer family.”

Courson’s wife and family will be in attendance to flip the switch for this year’s ceremony.

Volunteers plan and prepare for the parade all year long. Anyone is welcome to serve on the planning committee, or to submit suggestions for Christmas tree lighting honorees.

“It’s really amazing how much work and detail is involved in a production like this,” said Wright. “From arranging floats to working out the right flow of timing — we spend hours working on this in order to make sure that everything goes as smoothly as possible for the live production.”

“We’ve had a team of volunteers working all year in preparation for this year’s parade,” Farkas said. “In January, we’ll start planning for the next one.”

After Santa Claus makes his appearance, this family of volunteers can finally breathe a sigh of relief — until next year.

“It does take a lot of work, but it’s definitely worth it,” said Wright. “We’re glad we’re able to present the parade as a special gift to the community.”

For more information, contact Farkas or Wright at (229) 883-8330.