Get ready to kick off the holiday season a little early this year, as one of the city’s most beloved Christmas traditions will be held before Thanksgiving a second year in a row.
XTO Energy Parade of Lights brings “The Melodies of Christmas” to Fort Worth on Nov. 20, the Sunday before Thanksgiving. This is the 34th year the parade will fill the streets of downtown with hundreds of illuminated floats, half a million lights and tens of thousands of people.
The fun begins at 6 p.m. with decorated floats, antique cars, marching bands, precision equestrian units, horse-drawn carriages and groups of carolers on the 1.58-mile parade route. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be aboard the LED-lit grand finale float, sponsored by parade producers Downtown Fort Worth Initiatives, Inc.
This year’s grand marshal will be Fort Worth police officer Matt Pearce, who recently returned to duty after being shot while chasing suspects in March. Other participants include Mayor Betsy Price, premier float sponsor GM Financial, and nonprofit organizations such as the Cowboy Santas Program and the Fort Worth Bicycling Association.
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The parade has grown from 25 entries and a crowd of 25,000 in 1983 to nearly 100 entries and tens of thousands in attendance today, parade organizers say.
For 32 years, the XTO Energy Parade of Lights was held on the Friday after Thanksgiving. When it began, downtown Fort Worth was not exactly a weekend destination. With the influx of shopping, dining and family-friendly entertainment venues like Sundance Square Plaza, the area is packed with people around the clock, so last year parade officials moved the date ahead to improve parade access and parking availability.
“Over time, the parade had grown to become the most highly anticipated holiday event in Fort Worth, and with that also brought record crowds year-after-year,” said Brenna Jefferies, parade spokeswoman. “After surveying downtown shops and restaurants, street seat purchasers, parade participants and sponsors in 2014, the parade was strategically moved to the Sunday before Thanksgiving in 2015.”
Jefferies said moving it improved parade access and convenience for everyone involved.
“It has also helped spur business for downtown shops and restaurants, and welcomed more families since many students will have the following week off school for Thanksgiving break,” she said.
The event is free with the exception of reserved “street seats” available for purchase online starting at $8.50. Follow the event on Twitter using the official hashtag #2016ParadeOfLights, or find updates on Facebook and on the parade’s website.
This story includes information from the Star-Telegram archives.
Susan McFarland: 817-390-7984, @susanmcfarland1
What you need to know
2 p.m.: Shuttle Service begins from Farrington Field ($3 per adult round trip, $5 for two).
5:30 p.m. Cowboy Santas march up and down parade route accepting donations for children in need.
6 p.m. Parade officially begins at Belknap and Throckmorton streets.
10 p.m. Last bus departs from Farrington Field from the Fort Worth Intermodal Transportation Center.