Organizers are going in a different direction, actually the complete opposite direction, with the layout of this year’s Christmas parade in Zebulon.
The parade has traditionally started near J&M Chevrolet on Gannon Avenue and ended at Zebulon Community Park on Arendell Avenue. The route will be reversed for this year’s installment, set for Sunday, Dec. 7 at 2 p.m.
“There were several factors, but the biggest one is safety,” Kathy Smith, past president of the Zebulon Chamber of Commerce, said of the change.
Smith stayed on board to oversee the chamber’s annual event this year after assisting in past years and noting ways the parade could be improved. The change in direction was prompted mostly by disorganization at the former starting point – where participants arriving to find their place in line were subject to through traffic on Wedgewood Avenue.
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“You always hear concerns about the children being on floats, jumping off floats, cars coming, the total chaos that comes at the intersection (of Gannon and Wedgewood avenues) because parents dropping kids off don’t know where to go and drop kids off literally in the middle of the intersection,” Smith said. “That’s been my big concern, is some child getting hurt. The safety issue for the kids should be much better.”
The park will be accessible only to parade vehicles. Parking for parents of young participants will be at the Zebulon Community Center and the parking loop inside the park will be used as a participant drop-off area.
Kim Valentine, the chamber’s executive director, says reversing the parade also creates a safer situation at the endpoint.
There will be improved traffic patterns for participants exiting the parade and a designated area for parents to pick up their children. Smith said the park was intended for that purpose in the past but that some floats never made it that far, releasing children along the Arendell roadway.
Spectators can expect the usual favorites; classic cars, dance groups and marching bands. The chamber expects about 100 entrants.
The organizers also expect the new route will have sweet results for spectators. They say starting closer to downtown will ensure participants throwing out candy will have a healthy supply as they pass through the most-crowded span of the parade.