2002 Christmas parade set for Thursday night

By By Penny Randall / staff writer
Dec. 2, 2002
Thousands of people are expected to line the streets of downtown Meridian Thursday for the city's annual Christmas parade.
Organizers, however, want spectators and participants to be aware of a few changes for this year's event.
Liz Coats, the parade chairman, and Michele Pearson, parade co-chairman, talked about those and other details during a meeting last week with The Meridian Star editorial board
The Meridian Star: What do participants and spectators need to know about this year's parade?
Liz Coats: One of the things we try not to do is change things very much because people get comfortable with what's going to happen.
But this year we're changing things. We're going to line up on 23rd Avenue because it gives us more space. Also, before there would be numbers on the pavement for participants to line-up. This year there will be no numbers on the pavement.
We're going to send out a letter to all participants that will show which block they are to line up in. In that mailing there will be a number that is to be attached to the front left bumper of the vehicle.
There will be a parade representative at each block with a green T-shirt on that says "parade staff." Once the parade starts, the block leaders will put you in line. It should be a lot easier and a lot less confusion.
Michele Pearson: We're asking parade participants to come in from the west. Participants need to park their cars west of 23rd Avenue and walk to where they are lining up.
The Star: This year's theme is "Home for the Holidays." How did you come up with it?
Pearson: After Sept. 11, everyone seems to be going back to their roots, their church and their family. We just incorporated all of that. We have a lot of military themes and a lot of home settings in the parade this year. We want people to think about going back home and what Christmas in Meridian is about and what religion is about.
The Star: How has the parade changed over the years?
Coats: It's definitely gotten bigger. This year we have 103 entries. It's always been an event that people look forward to. People also want to be in the parade. It's just evolved over the years.
The Star: What floats can we look forward to this year?
Coats: Mississippi Power always has a big one. And then, of course, you always have the dance troupes and we always have all the area bands.
Pearson: The Mississippi Air National Guard Family Readiness Group is doing a float with all their military personnel coming home. They will have a home setting with a pilot, military police and soldiers. I think this is a first time in a long time that they don't have a major deployment at Christmas time.
The Star: How much manpower does it take to organize and pull off the Christmas parade?
Coats: Every year there is no way of knowing how many volunteers we will have. The city does its part and then the Downtown Association and the downtown business owners do their part. The people who are in the parade deserve the credit. Their floats take a lot of work and they spend a lot of time on them. The parade is for the kids, but it's also to promote the business downtown.
Pearson: The Downtown Association is the sponsor. We want people to feel comfortable to come down and walk around.
This year the route is changing because we wanted to include the new businesses on Front Street. We're excited about that. It's good to change things up a little bit and show off all the unique things going on downtown.
Organizers of the 2002 Meridian Christmas parade have these requests for people and groups sponsoring entries in the Thursday night event.
Do not throw candy from parade floats or vehicles.
No loud music.
All music must have a Christmas theme.
Place parade number on the front left bumper of your vehicle.
If you don't have your number by Wednesday, call Liz Coats at 693-2991 or Michele Pearson at 482-6699.
Parade participants need to stay in line all the way up to 14th Street.
No vehicles will be allowed on 23rd Avenue. To drop off a child or parade participant, park your vehicle and walk to the the block where your float is.
Prizes will be awarded for overall winner and first, second and third in commercial and non-commercial divisions.
Thursday's festivities begin at 5:30 p.m. with the lighting of the Christmas tree at City Hall, 601 24th Ave. The Wesley Belles will provide traditional seasonal music. The Christmas parade begins at 6:30 p.m.