Santa Claus is coming to town this year in the style of a reverse parade. The Greene County Chamber of Commerce will be hosting the 83rd Christmas parade at the Greene County Fairground on Saturday, Dec. 4 from 2-4 p.m. The parade is underwritten by the First Energy Foundation and organized by the chamber of commerce. The event is free to all spectators, but donations are being accepted by various organizations.
The chamber of commerce is a private nonprofit organization not associated with any government entity. The chamber does not receive any tax dollars and is privately funded.
The chamber has partnered with WANB Radio to put on a live broadcast with WANB’s Crazy Dougie Wilson. Upon pulling into the fairgrounds, spectators will be instructed to tune into WANB to listen to the broadcast as they travel through the route.
Wilson hosted the live broadcast for the reverse parade last year, but in years before that, he was still very active with the Christmas parade festivities.
“In years past, I have been one of the Masters of Ceremony for the parade when it was a normal parade,” Wilson said.
In his role as a Master of Ceremony, Wilson would announce all of the floats and marching bands as they marched down the street. Wilson will fulfill his role this year from the radio station playing Christmas music for the two hours that the parade is set to run. He will also be making reminders and announcements.
Melody Longstreth, executive director for the chamber of commerce, said that even last year, the easier thing to do would be to not have the parade until COVID-19 calmed down, but felt that it was not the right thing to do.
“We had to do something, even if it wasn’t our traditional parade, so we’re going to have a big party and hope that everyone comes out and enjoys it,” Longstreth said.
Wilson had a similar reaction to the idea of having a reverse parade for the first time last year.
“I thought, you know what, with what was going on at the time, I thought at least we’re going to be able to do something, even though it might not look like what we have done in years past.”
The idea of having a reverse parade was introduced last year during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a reverse parade, the displays are stationary while the cars drive past them.
“It was on the fairgrounds last year because of everything being shut down,” Longstreth said. “We worked this year to get it back on High Street and there were just a lot of factors that ended up making this the best choice for this year. Hopefully then next year we’ll be back at it’s home on High Street.”
Last year, 33 displays were set up and just over 250 cars drove through the parade. According to Longstreth, they have already exceeded the 33 displays for this year so far.
The response from last year’s reverse parade was very positive, which contributed to the idea to have it again this year.
“I’m excited to do it,” Longstreth said. “We had a really good time with it last year. Being on the fairground, it enabled us to do things that we are not able to do on a traditional parade route. For instance, the collection of the items for Toys for Tots and the Foodbank. Those things just can’t happen on a traditional parade route.”
According to Wilson, last year’s event went longer than planned due to the large turnout. The gates were left open to make sure everyone in line could get to drive through.
Spectators should arrive at the East gate of the fairgrounds on route 21. They will then be greeted and put into a line to start through the parade.
Entertainment will be provided for spectators as they wait in line.
Spectators will then drive through the arena barn. Upon entering the barn, spectators will have the opportunity to donate to the Salvation Army and the local Corner Cupboard Foodbank. Monetary donations will be accepted by the Salvation Army, and money donations and food items will be accepted by the food bank.
Spectators will not have to leave their vehicles, and volunteers will retrieve any donations.
Displays will be set up in the arena barn along with local high school bands playing popular Christmas music. As of Monday, Nov. 22, Waynesburg Central High School and West Greene High School have been confirmed to play so far.
After exiting the barn, spectators will travel from the arena barn towards the other end of the fairgrounds. Displays will be set up outside as well during this portion of the parade.
When spectators arrive at the far end of the midway, they will drive through the North Pole exhibit. Within that building, guests will be greeted by the current Miss Rain Day, Emily Bennett and the Chamber’s Distinguished Service award winner George “Bly” Blystone.
This building will also feature a gingerbread house display from the Early Learning Resource Center.
Helpers dressed as elves will be handing out treat bags to children, and Santa will be there with Mrs. Claus. Mrs. Claus will be accepting letters from the children to make sure they make it back to the North Pole for Santa.
The treat bags are filled with candy donated by numerous organizations, a book donated by the Early Learning Resource Center and a small gift from Washington Health Systems Greene.
The Christian Motorcycle Association Highway Soldiers will be present with motorcycles on display and will be accepting donations of monetary value or toys for Toys For Tots.
After exiting the final building, spectators will head towards the west gate and exit out of the fairground.
Volunteers from the Greene County Sheriff’s Department will be at both gates to ensure spectators get in and out safely.
As for community events such as the Christmas parade, Wilson thinks they are important to continue whether or not they look the same as they did before COVID-19.
“Let’s take care of the here and now, and the here and now is a reverse parade that I think is going to be just as much fun, if not more fun, than it was last year,” Wilson said. “I think it’s going to be a lot of fun, I really do.”