CRESTVIEW — When the annual Main Street Christmas Parade — the last official event during Crestview’s Centennial celebration — rolls at 5:30 Saturday, planning that has been underway since July between multiple city departments and the Main Street Crestview Association will reach its culmination.
Meeting Wednesday morning at the Crestview Police Department, Main Street Director Patti Gonzo, Police Chief Tony Taylor, Operations Cmdr. Jamie Grant and Sgt. Mike Leadmon reviewed final plans to assure a safe and secure experience for participants and a crowd some anticipate to number 10,000 or more North Okaloosa County residents.
Thursday night, police officers, Main Street officials and a representative from each parading organization will meet at Warriors Hall to review rules and regulations governing the parade from line-up to disbanding.
“It’s very productive for us to meet like this,” Taylor said at the Wednesday meeting as the group met around a large-scale map of South Main Street and Gonzo pointed out parade staging locations from the railroad tracks south to State Road 85.
“I have four years’ experience doing this,” Gonzo said, tapping a thick binder packed with notes from previous parades.
Gonzo presented the following procedures that she said will help make marshaling the parade more efficient:
• School bands and marching groups will stage in the parking lot off East Chestnut Avenue near the community garden
• Walking groups will stage along East Chestnut Avenue
• Scout troops and packs will stage on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard
• Parading vehicles, except those pulling floats, will enter East Field Avenue off S.R. 85, check in at the check-in center, receive a number and stage on the east side of South Main Street
• Floats will enter South Main Street at either S.R. 85 or East Eden Avenue, check in at the check-in center, receive a number and then stage along the west side of South Main Street.
Among a few tweaks in procedures parade entrants will learn about at Thursday’s mandatory organization meeting: candy and other throws may not be distributed until after the unit has crossed the railroad tracks and started up North Main Street.
“That’s new this year,” Gonzo said. “The safety of all is what makes this necessary,” noting that at past parades, children and other parade goers have been clamoring for candy at the same time parade officials are dispatching parading units into line in the same area.
Also, the parade route has been extended, rounding from North Main Street west on Cedar Avenue to Wilson Street and then two blocks south to Beech Avenue, and an area will be set aside on Courthouse Terrace at Main Street for special-needs residents, Grant said.
“If somebody just wants to drive in there and watch the parade, no, they can’t do that there,” Grant said. “But if they need to get in with a wheelchair, they can.”
Assisting full-time Crestview police officers in maintaining safety and communications will be Crestview Police Auxiliary officers, members of the Crestview Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association, and members of the North Okaloosa Amateur Radio Club.
Other parade regulations include:
• No candy or other throws may be tossed from vehicles or floats. Only organization members walking alongside their group’s float or vehicle may hand out treats.
• Parading units may not line up until 3 p.m. at the earliest.
• Floats or vehicles may not stop and decorate at the entry to South Main Street. Final touches can be applied once the float or vehicle is in its place in line.
• Vehicle drivers must remain with their vehicles at all times.
• Bands must stay in formation until the parade has rounded the bend by Badcock & More Furniture and reached Wilson Street and Beech Street at the Round Palace laundry. Parading units may not stop and drop off riders until the end of the parade at the Round Palace.
Gonzo said organizers are anticipating floats decorated to celebrate the city’s 100th birthday following the parade’s theme, “Christmas Through the Decades.”
“We have plenty of people in it and plenty of people coming to see it,” Gonzo said.