Parade of Lights will roll downtown

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Kids excitedly greet Santa Claus during the 2019 parade of lights in downtown Greenfield. Santa again will make a grand entrance during the parade, although he won't greet children on the Courthouse Plaza as usual. File photo

GREENFIELD — Old Saint Nick will again make his way down Main Street in downtown Greenfield this year.

The annual Parade of Lights, held by the Riley Festival, will kick off at 5:45 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5.

The parade will run its usual route — starting at Depot Street, then going north on Riley Avenue, east on Main Street, then south on American Legion Place.

Riley Festival board members debated last week whether to have the popular holiday event due to COVID concerns. They opted to stick with the holiday tradition with safeguards in place.

“While people can line the streets to watch the parade, social distancing is expected and encouraged, and masks are highly recommended,” said Anita Turner, past president of the Riley Festival board.

“Even though it’s an outside event, we do want everyone to be safe and smart in regards to the coronavirus,” she said.

To avoid crowds, Turner said there will be no Santa on the Plaza event this year. That means no visitation hours at Santa’s house on the Courthouse Plaza.

The traditional community tree-lighting ceremony, however, will take place on the plaza after the parade.

The Riley Festival still will have the annual downtown merchants window-decorating contest, with judging taking place on Dec. 5. The winner gets bragging rights and a traveling trophy.

“The window contest as well as the parade are designed to bring more attention to the downtown merchants, and to encourage people to shop small and shop local,” Turner said.

Businesses and organizations that wish to enter a float or other unit in the parade should fill out an application at RileyFestival.org.

All parade entries must have a minimum of 500 lights, “which is about the equivalent of a box of Christmas lights,” said Turner, who said roughly 25 entries were in last year’s parade.

She hopes to have as many return this year, to give the public a fun way to celebrate the holidays at the end of a chaotic year.

“I think that in light of the way everything has been going this year, the parade will hopefully be the highlight of the season,” Turner said.

“We hope it can bring some renewed interest back to shopping downtown while bringing the community together.”