For Charles Dickerson, Christmas time means playing Santa Claus and spreading cheer to community members.
The 73-year-old has been Santa in the Jacksonville Christmas parade off and on for around four decades.
He said he’s seen many children in that time and has enjoyed the experience.
“I have a lot of fun. It’s very gratifying - kids hooping and hollering and waving at you,” he said.
Christmas parades have become a tradition in various East Texas cities, including Tyler, Whitehouse, Henderson, Troup and Bullard.
Tyler’s Jaycees Christmas Parade is set for 6 p.m. Thursday downtown.
After the parade, the 28th Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, featuring a 28-foot Leyland Cypress tree, will take place on the T.B. Butler Fountain Plaza, according to Debbie Isham, special events and recreation manager for the city of Tyler. During the program, 1-year-old Micah Emory Read, this year’s Miracle Child, will light the tree, the East Texas Christian Jazz Band will play and the Candy Crocker School of Dance will perform, Ms. Isham said.
She said Santa is available for photos after the program.
Troup’s Christmas parade is scheduled for 6 p.m. Dec. 12.
City Manager Gene Cottle said the parade begins on North Carolina Street, goes down Duval Street to Front Street then back to the starting area.
Cottle, who has been in Troup since 1977, said the parade has always been an interesting and fun activity. He said children and various churches are part of the parade, and the people involved put forth a lot of effort.
He noted that more technology, such as lights and electric generators, have been used on floats in more recent years.
Cindy Steele, who owns Steele’s Feed and Seed with her husband, echoed Cottle, saying the parade has become a nice, fun event.
Mrs. Steele said people are getting more into the float competition, and after the parade, children receive goodie bags and have the opportunity to see Santa in the municipal library parking lot. Hot chocolate is also available.
“It’s just a little something extra,” Mrs. Steele said.
She recalled that at one time children received goodie bags at City Hall, complete with items such as a peppermint stick, an apple and an orange.
“What I remember is walking down there and being so excited,” she said.
Today, she said children still receive an apple and orange, along with peppermints and other items.
Santa riding on a fire truck has also become a tradition with the Troup parade, Mrs. Steele said. And for her feed store business, it’s a tradition to build a float.
As of Monday, she was still figuring out exactly what the vision for the float will be this year.
But “I haven’t given up,” she said. “By the middle of the week, I will have come up with something. We take great pride in our float …We all get together and build.”
Overall, Cottle said the Christmas parade is likely the largest attended parade in Troup. He said the city did not have a Veterans Day parade this year and instead will feature veterans in the Christmas parade. Cottle estimated that 500 or 600 people attend the Christmas parade.
Whitehouse Christmas festivities were rescheduled and will take place on Dec. 14, beginning with Christmas in the Park at 3 p.m.
Angela Klein, with the Whitehouse Area Chamber of Commerce, said via email that the event includes Christmas music, kid activities, a bounce house, vendors promoting businesses, vendors selling crafts and other items, a concession stand and a food vendor.
The Christmas parade is scheduled for 6 p.m. The route includes Texas Highway 110 and Farm-to-Market Road 346, according to the chamber website.
Todd Kelly, second vice president for the chamber, said many people enjoy the parade, and he is trying to make the traveling trophy an ongoing tradition, where the best float winner keeps the trophy for a year.
He said a theme has also been part of the parade. Last year’s theme was “It’s a Texas Christmas.” This year, the theme is “The 12 Days of Christmas.”
Kelly said masters of ceremonies will be near the city park, announcing the floats as they come by and interacting with attendees. After the parade, Santa will be in the city park to take photos, he said.
Henderson’s parade is slated for 6:30 p.m. Thursday downtown.
Henderson Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bonnie Geddie said the parade is a fun time and a way to launch the Christmas spirit.
Ms. Geddie said area schools are in the parade, and “everyone’s out to see Santa.”
Jacksonville’s Christmas parade is also scheduled for Thursday. It is slated to begin at 6 p.m. with the theme “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.”
Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce President Peggy Renfro said a great crowd is expected.
“We’ve had a lot of calls not only today but in the last couple weeks,” she said Monday.
She said it also appears that people are spending a lot of time decorating floats this year.
Additionally, downtown will be lit up for the parade this year, Ms. Renfro said, and there will be an outstanding float for the grand marshal.
“It will be one of the better parades we’ve put together,” she said.
Bullard’s parade took place on Monday.
Parade Coordinator Brandi Abercrombie said she enjoys seeing the Texas National Bank float each year.
“They’re always very creative. It’s kind of neat to see what they’re going to have,” she said, adding that they have done a snow scene in the past.
She said the parade is an “opportunity for the community to come together.”
“A lot of times families will go to a local establishment and have dinner together (that day),” she said. “It’s just a good family night.”