By MARK TODD - firstname.lastname@example.org
The Yuletide season officially sweeps into Conneaut Friday night with the help of floats, music and a chubby guy in a red suit.
For decades, the city’s Christmas parade has been the harbinger of the holidays. This year’s version, sponsored by the Conneaut Optimist Club, will begin at 7 p.m.
The procession will line up starting at 6 p.m. at Conneaut High School, then make its way to the downtown district via Jackson, Broad, State, Harbor and Main streets. The theme for this year’s parade is “Christmas Magic,” and prizes will be awarded the best units in a handful of categories.
Parade grand marshal is Pat Williams (”AM Live” host) and his wife Michelle.
Immediately following the parade will be the “Lights of Love” ceremony at Conneaut Savings Bank, 305 Main St. Sponsored by Conneaut Area Chamber of Commerce the ceremony includes caroling and the lighting of the “Love” tree on the bank’s lawn.
Since 1987, the Chamber has been selling symbolic lights on the tree in honor or memory of a loved one. For $5, participants receive an ornament painted by Conneaut High School art students, and their name — as well as the name of the honoree — published in local newspapers.
“Lights” may be purchased at the Chamber office and local financial institutions. Students at Lakeshore Primary, Gateway Elementary and Conneaut Middle schools are also selling “lights” to family and friends. One dollar from each student’s sale benefits the student’s school. The home room with the most sales will receive a pizza party courtesy of the Chamber.
Sales will cease on Dec. 16.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to memorialize loved ones lost or honor those who are still with us,” Wendy DuBey, Chamber executive director, said in a statement. “We have heard so many touching testaments, from honoring those serving the country to folks who want to remember family and friends and those who want to memorialize a lost pet. Each and every light purchased has special meaning.”
The “Lights” ceremony will include holiday music by the Conneaut High School Marching Band, benediction by Tim Kraus of Conneaut Church of Christ and a history of the program by Cris Newcomb, Chamber president. It’s believed Santa Claus will officially light the tree. Hot chocolate will be provided by Thompson-Smith Funeral Home.