Santa Claus will make a special trip from the North Pole to downtown Williamsport to usher in the holiday season on Friday. A slew of activities, including the mayor's annual tree lighting ceremony and the opening of Santa's Village, will key visitors up for the grand event - the 63rd annual Billtown Christmas Parade.
The parade, sponsored by the City of Williamsport, the Sun-Gazette, Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce and Backyard Broadcasting, has become one of the city's oldest holiday traditions, and an essential start to the holiday season for many people.
"For 63 years, the Billtown Christmas Parade has brought happiness to young and old alike, spanning several generations," said Milissa Augustine, parade chairwoman.
Wreaths are hung from city light posts in the downtown in preparation for the Holiday Parade Friday.
Festivities start at Santa's Village at the southwest corner of West Fourth and Hepburn streets, which will open at 4 p.m. There, visitors will be able to purchase handmade crafts from local artisans, as well as delicious holiday food. The heart of Santa's Village will be Santa's House, which will be decked out for the holidays in festive wreaths and garland.
At 5:30 p.m., Mayor Gabriel Campana will light up the traditional 60-foot Christmas tree directly in front of Santa's House.
"The tree is the centerpiece of the downtown holiday decor, and (it) carries the magic of the holidays," Augustine said.
A magical night is promised when the annual Billtown Christmas Parade steps off at 6 p.m. Friday from Elmira and West Third streets and circles through the downtown area.
Following is the parade lineup:
Police escort, Williamsport Bureau of Police
Marine Corps League Color Guard, Williamsport Detachment 388
Marine Corps League Toys for Tots float, "Celebrating 65 Years Of Helping Needy Families In Lycoming County"
Engine One, Tower Truck One and Command Car, Williamsport Bureau of Fire
Mayor Gabriel J. Campana, Police Chief Foresman and their families
Williamsport Trackless Railroad
Williamsport City Council aboard The Peter Herdic Trolley
"Football" Helium Parade Balloon
The Williamsport Sun-Gazette Candy Van
Backyard Broadcasting Mobile & Super Roving Radio
Disaster Relief Vehicle, North Central Chapter American Red Cross
Marching Millionaires of Williamsport Area High School
Williamsport Millionaires 2012/2013 Cheerleaders
Eastern Lycoming Branch YMCA "Super Stars" mini-floats with performers
Dr. Seuss Characters The Grinch & Cindy Lou Who
"Snowflakes the Snowman" Helium Parade Balloon
Williamsport Crosscutters Mascot Boomer and Four Wheeler
Callie Hall Fitness "Zumba Christmas" float with performers
Bayada Pediatrics "Making Christmas Brighter with In Home Health Care" float
St. Luke Lutheran Church Live Nativity Float
South Williamsport High School Marching Band
Montoursville Olde Tyme Christmas featuring Ox Cart with Victorian Street Urchins
Montoursville Chamber of Commerce members
State Rep. Rick Mirabito and family
Including: Mr. and Mrs. Richard Mirabito and Family
Otto's "Read to your children" Float
"Happy Face" Helium Parade Balloon
Honorary Parade Marshall, The North Central Chapter American Red Cross, featuring Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle, Disaster Van and Mini Indy Cars
Christmas float, Plunketts Creek Twp. Volunteer Fire Co.
Nuweld Christmas-style float
Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce The Polar Express Train Style Float
Milissa Augustine Dance Academy presents "A Disney Style Christmas" featuring Cinderella's Glittering Horse Drawn Carriage
Disney Princesses and Disney Character Mascots
Dancing Holiday Characters
Disney Christmas Float.
Horse Drawn Carriage
"Candy Cane" Giant Helium Parade Balloon
The Williamsport Repaz Band & The Carl Stoltz Trolley
Sones Farm and Home Museum Holiday-Style Float
Shoe Carnival banner and elves
Clear Channel Media vehicles
Equipment Depot Christmas Holiday Float
Geisinger Health Plan Christmas Style RV
Hughesville High School Spartans Marching Band
Little League International Mascot "Dugout"
Pine Street United Methodist Church "The Portrayal of Christ's Birth" featuring marching unit in Biblical costumes
"Green Christmas Ornament" Giant Helium Parade Balloons
Lycoming County SPCA "Take Me Home for the Holidays" Float featuring Eagle Wings and SPCA shelter dogs
Hershey Characters and Hershey Mobile
Resounding CymbolsTheatre Group "I'll be Home for Christmas" float
40 et 8 & SOL Club truck with wagon
Montoursville High School Marching Band
Montoursville Junior Athletic Association "Welcome to the Warrior Jungle" float
Susquehanna Valley Derby Vixens skating unit
"Robert the Reindeer" Giant Helium Parade Balloon
Old Lycoming Volunteer Fire Co. Fire Engine and Snuffy the Mascot
Phillips Fancy Footwork Baton Twirling and Dance Group
Pomona Grange 28 Grange Train
Santa & Mrs. Claus in a horse-drawn sleigh
"Trigar (Tire and Auto Service Center) Holiday Balloon" Helium Parade Balloon
Williamsport Bureau of Police
Parade lineup will begin at 5:30 at the intersection of Elmira and West Third streets. The parade will go east on West Third Street, toward Pine Street. There, it will move north toward West Forth Street, then west on West Fourth Street and finish back at Elmira Street.
Those who want a good seat for the parade will want to arrive early to beat the crowds. According to Augustine, more than 25,000 people will line the streets.
Local heroes, such as members of the city police force, Marine Corps League Color Guard and bureau of fire, will lead the parade.
Spectators will delight as the evening is lit up with illuminated floats. Several large, helium-filled character balloons will wind their way through the city's streets. Costumed characters, such as the Grinch and Cindy Lou Who, also will make an appearance.
Local high school marching bands will perform during the parade, including the Williamsport "Marching Millionaires." Other entertainment includes performances from the Williamsport Area High School cheerleaders and several local dance teams.
Following the parade, visitors will be able to get up close and personal with the "jolly old elf" himself. Santa will greet his public, at no charge, in Santa's House until 9 p.m.
"Come and join in the holiday merriment with twinkling lights, entertainment and more. It's going to be a magical night in downtown Williamsport," Augustine said.