Champaign to ‘Let it Glow’ on Friday

University students and community members can get into the holiday spirit Friday as the city of Champaign hosts its ninth annual Parade of Lights.

The parade and tree lighting ceremony will begin Friday at 6 p.m. The theme for this year’s parade is “Let it Glow.”

The floats, vehicles and groups entered in the parade must be lighted in some way, said Laura Auteberry, marketing and development director for the Champaign Park District.

Entries cannot include a “Santa” because the parade committee offers an ”official Santa” who comes to the parade and meets with children afterward, according to the Champaign Park District Web site.

Auteberry said the city spends several months planning for the event.

This year there are about 70 volunteers, including many University students.

Spectators can expect a variety of community organizations this year including those with decorated vehicles, marching bands and Girl Scout troops.

Auteberry said there are 50 entries in the parade.

“Some of the floats do have music. We have live music that will happen before, carolers throughout the parade, bell ringers and at the end of the parade we have the tree lighting ceremony,” Auteberry said.

Before the parade, free musical entertainment and free hot cocoa will be available at 5:30 p.m. at One Main Plaza, West Side Park and the Virginia Theatre East Lobby in Champaign.

The parade entries will also be judged in categories of judge’s favorite, originality, best use of theme and best costume, Auteberry said.

Patti Darr, director of the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, said this is her business’ second year participating in the parade.

She said that ReStore will close early on Friday and the group will be passing out candy canes during the parade.

“Our float is our delivery/box truck and we are using great holiday items that have been donated to the ReStore,” Darr said.

“We have glowing balloons that we will have on the truck along with standard Christmas lights.”

Jason Ditzler, president of the Tornado Research Team of Illinois, said his organization is entering a 2001 Ford Crown Victoria that serves as one of its storm chase vehicles.

“We have added our parade strobes, headlight wigwags and cleaned our normal chase lighting,” Ditzler said.

The tree lighting ceremony will take place at approximately 7:15 p.m. at One Main Plaza and will act as the finale of the parade.

“There is a giant tree in the plaza right outside Jim Gould’s that’s been decorated,” Auteberry said. “We will do a countdown and light the tree.”

The Parade of Lights begins in front of the News-Gazette building, 15 Main St. in Champaign, and is free to the public, although monetary donations are welcome.