CHAMPAIGN — The 13th annual Parade of Lights is Saturday in downtown Champaign.
The Champaign Center Partnership runs the parade, which kicks off at 6 p.m. and will feature floats, marching bands and Santa Claus himself. The parade concludes with a tree-lighting ceremony at One Main Plaza.
This year's grand marshal is city planner and former Champaign Center Partnership executive director T.J. Blakeman.
New to this year's event is an hour of music and activities in various downtown businesses beginning at 5 p.m. The Champaign-Urbana Theatre Company's Dickensian Carolers will begin strolling at 5 through downtown streets.
Cream and Flutter will host craft activities by Party Prep: Glitter Tattoos and More for kids of all ages.
The Urbana High School jazz band will perform in the lobby of the Executive Center on Neil Street.
The Virginia Theatre will open that evening for an organ performance and Christmas carols in the auditorium.
The Prince of Peace Choirchime Ensemble will give a performance inside Jos. Kuhn & Co. on Main Street.
Complete Care Pharmacy will offer free coffee and $20 flu shots for the evening as well as host a performance from the Parkland College Wind Ensemble.
Dulak Pilates also welcomes visitors to their open house for hot apple cider from 3 to 5 p.m. that evening.
Children can also meet with Santa in person from 2 to 5 p.m. at Jane Addams Book Shop, where free hot chocolate will also be available before and during the parade as supplies last.
Danny's Fund, a nonprofit that raises awareness and funds for pediatric cancer research, will be at the station in front of Jos. Kuhn & Co., and Daisy Troop 2251 and Bottenfield Junior Troop 2112 will be at the station at Neil and Park streets.
"We really wanted to bring a festive atmosphere into downtown in the hour leading up to the parade this year," Champaign Center Partnership executive director Erin Lippitz said. "Our hope is that families will come downtown early to enjoy the music, crafts and hot chocolate and visit our businesses to get in a little holiday shopping before the parade."
A map of the parade route and the locations of the music, activities and hot chocolate stations can be found at http://www.champaigncenter.com.
Parade of Lights sponsors include Busey Bank, Stevie Jay Broadcasting, Dixon Graphics, Hyatt Place, M2, One Main Development, Boneyard Coffee and Tea, Pekara Bakery and Bistro, Midland States Bank, First Federal Savings Bank, MTD and Precision Graphics.