Bud Kennedy

Santa: Too soon? Downtown tree, parade arrive before Turkey Day

Santa's arrival at Parade of Lights

Annual event kicks off the holiday season
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Annual event kicks off the holiday season

Yes, Santa lands before the turkey’s baked again this year.

No, that’s probably never going to switch back.

Sundance Square’s tree lighting ceremony and the downtown Parade of Lights are this Saturday and Sunday, drawing crowds over two nights in mid-November again instead of wearing everybody out on the busy Friday after Thanksgiving.

If you’re a no-Santa-till-Thanksgiving purist, fine.

But His Jolliness landed at some malls two weeks ago, when his red headgear still might easily have been mistaken for a presidential campaign cap.

The parade and tree lighting were moved up a week last year, after downtown merchants said their Friday shoppers and diners had trouble getting through the thick parade crowds.

With TCU playing at home last year, it looked like an even smarter move. The longest Parade of Lights would have been on the freeways.

This year, the lighting ceremony is at 6 p.m. Saturday, hours after traffic clears from a Horned Frogs morning home game. The parade is at 6 p.m. Sunday, long after the Cowboys’ noon game.

Turns out the Parade of Lights’ downtown sponsors always wanted a bigger parade, but there wasn’t space downtown or time with crowds restless for the tree lighting.

This year’s parade is the largest ever, with 130 entries and 10 bands. The floats are the largest ever, said events director Jay Downie for Downtown Fort Worth, Inc.

Big — as in 80 feet of snake.

A bicyle-driven, 34-wheel rattlesnake float comes from Austin artist Jeremy Rosen’s Bike Zoo of pedal-pushed fabric figures. There’s also an 11-foot-tall swallowtail butterfly.

In an interview with Austin television station KLRU, Rosen said the idea sprang from a discussion involving bicycle builders and puppetmakers: “I’ve always been into collecting junk and putting things together.”

Speaking of bicycles: If you have one, ride it.

The notoriously awful traffic on Interstate 35W will be worse than ever. The Spur 280 exit is closed, so if you’re coming from the north or east, consider looping in from the west or south.

As proof that now and then the government gets something right, the Trinity Railway Express will add two Sunday trains into downtown for the parade, and one leaving at 10 p.m.

It’s the 34th annual edition of the parade, which started back when downtown still struggled to draw patrons to the old Monnig’s and Dillard’s department stores and the Caravan of Dreams nightclub.

“The parade’s change,” Downie said, “is part and parcel of how downtown has changed.”

It’s so busy, Santa needs an extra week to see it all.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, bud@star-telegram.com, @BudKennedy. His column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.