By Nathan Kraatz
WILMINGTON — ‘Tis not yet the season for Christmas, but it is the season for post-Thanksgiving HomeTown HoliDazzle.
The ninth annual HomeTown HoliDazzle illuminated parade and festival will be Saturday, Nov. 28, featuring activities and games for kids and the hallmark parade that draws thousands to downtown Wilmington.
Festivities begin at 1 p.m. downtown, and the parade starts at 7 p.m. Due to a state semifinal football game being played at Wilmington High School that evening, HoliDazzle parade committee chair Rob Jaehnig said this year’s parade is expected to start at the Clinton County Fairground.
Jaehnig said he’s heard HoliDazzle described as a parade from a small town that rivals large cites’ parades. Attendance, according to Jaehnig, can be between 10,000 to a fair-weather high of 15,000 people.
“It really gets people in the Christmas spirit,” Jaehnig said. “It’s great kicking off the local shopping season. … It’s the one event per year that literally you could go to and really have a great time and not spend a dime.”
Jaehnig said organizers have worked hard to ensure that there aren’t costs for entrance, train rides or bouncy houses.
“It’s just about the community and giving back and showing how great our downtown is,” Jaehnig said.
There are new additions to the festival, including what Jaehnig says will be an “outrageous” lighted stage, which will be used by many performers from 5:15 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., when Brent Keith and the Elevation Community Church Worship Team will perform.
“That’s our big surprise this year,” Jaehnig said. “When you see the stage light up, it’s just something else to see.”
Some of the parade entrants include Star Wars characters, a Christmas train by R+L Carriers, a winter wonderland-themed Polaris entry and many more.
Joining in the spectacle, Main Street Wilmington will have a Star Wars-themed window decorating contest for local, downtown businesses, said Bekah Muchmore, MSW executive director.
Muchmore said the contest will take place from Nov. 23-28, and people can vote for their favorite window now at www.mainstreetwilmington.com and clicking on a link.
The window with the most votes receives a trophy and $50 cash, according to Muchmore.
The 28th, Muchmore said, is also Shop Small Saturday, “a day to celebrate downtown businesses.”
Games and prizes, bouncy houses, Santa’s workshop, elves and Santa himself will all be available for children, too, Jaehnig said, adding that Santa will be at Peoples Bank for kids to visit and say what they want for Christmas.
The American Red Cross will have a greeting-cards-for-overseas-troops event, the Wilmington Public Library of Clinton County will have HoliDazzle crafts, and vendors will be downtown offering food.
A community band will play at the Murphy Theatre, as will Merry TubaChristmas at 5 p.m.
Despite the new departure point, the parade route will work its way across Farquhar Avenue to Main Street. It should be downtown shortly after 7 p.m. The route ends a few blocks past the Clinton County courthouse.
Santa Claus will arrive on a different float for the ninth year in a row, a HoliDazzle tradition.
“It looks to be an amazing night,” Jaehnig said.
Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.
Festival activities schedule
1-4 p.m. – Holiday crafting for all ages, Wilmington Public Library
1-2 p.m. – Clinton County Community Band, Murphy Theatre
3-3:30 p.m. – Wilmington High School Choraliers, Wilmingtones and Alumni Choir, inside the Clinton County Courthouse
4-7 p.m. – free train ride and inflatable, N. South St.
4:30-6:45 p.m. – HoliDazzle Children’s Carnival, Wilmington Municipal Building, Community Room
4:30-6:45 p.m. – North Pole Hot Line, Wilmington Municipal Building, 1st Floor
4-7 p.m. – Pictures with Santa (take your pictures free), Peoples Bank lobby
5-5:45 p.m. – Merry TubaChristmas Concert, Murphy Theatre
7 p.m. – Lighting of Buckley Bros. Star, downtown
7 p.m. – Parade leaves high school
7:20 p.m., approximately – Parade arrives downtown