A festively decorated fire truck makes its way down Park Boulevard during Celebrate Pinellas Park’s 2012 Holiday Parade.
PINELLAS PARK – If previous years are any indication, expect thousands of people to line Park Boulevard on Saturday, Dec. 14, for the annual holiday parade. Organizers say it will be bigger and better than ever.
Ricky Butler, the operations director of the parade and part of Celebrate Pinellas Park, a nonprofit organization that has been handling the parade for years, said it is a major undertaking.
“We work on organizing the parade all year really,” he said. “There are 10 of us who are at it constantly. Then as things draw nearer, more and more people join us. So in the end there are about 60 people who are involved.”
The holiday parade is very much a tradition in Pinellas Park. This will be the 41st annual event and Butler says it never fails to draw a crowd.
“We have never done an official count, but just gauging the crowd, how deep it is and so on, we calculate that anywhere from 10,000 to 14,000 people show up to watch every year,” he said.
Just as residents and visitors show up year after year for the parade, so do the participants.
“Many of the same people come back,” said Butler. “We have roughly 60 participants who come back every year. The Pinmar Antique Car Club has been in every single parade, all 40 of them. After them, Carrie’s Dance Studio has been participating for the past 27 years in a row.”
In all, Butler said they expect to have 120 units in the parade, including five marching bands from Pinellas High Schools.
Pinellas Park resident Shari Phillips has been helping organize the parade for the past three years. Prior to that, she was a spectator at the parade. Even now she stops working once the parade begins.
“I still sit and watch it on parade night,” she said. “I don’t mind working but I want to watch it.”
She added, “For years, me and my adult children and grandkids made it a point to go out there. It is a family time with a lot of great floats. It is fun because I know so many people in the parade so we’re hollering back and forth. It is a great opportunity to get into the holiday spirit.”
Phillips said she gets a kick out of watching her grandchildren watch the parade.
“It is very magical. One grandson is 14 now, but he still loves it,” she said. “The other one is 8 and he’s actually been in the parade on a couple of occasions. But it is much more fun watching it than walking in it. It is much more magical that way.”
The Parade begins at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14, on Park Boulevard at 58th Street by the railroad tracks. It then travels east on Park to 43rd Street at The Shoppes at Park Place.
Butler advises people to get there early.
“The parade route is completely closed off at 4 p.m.,” he said. “To be sure you get a spot with your lawn chairs and blankets, I’d advise people to get there and set up around 4:30 p.m.”
Safety, said Butler, is critical, so most of the route will be cordoned off with barricades.
“They will prevent people from getting out into the street and possibly getting hurt,” he said. “Our parade has a perfect safety record when it comes to incidents involving participants and spectators and we would like to keep it that way.”
Handicapped seating for the parade is available at the Taylor Family Funeral Home at 5300 Park Blvd. That is accessible from 53rd Street via 70th Avenue.