Wake County

Raleigh Christmas Parade comes with a side of barbecue this year

One of downtown’s most cherished annual traditions – the Raleigh Christmas Parade – will be accompanied this Saturday by another Southern favorite: barbecue.

For the first time, the N.C. Pork Council’s Whole Hog Barbecue Championship will coincide with the parade. More than 25 barbecue enthusiasts will cook hogs overnight Friday on Lenoir Street downtown. The pork will be judged Saturday morning, then chopped up and sold at midday, just as the parade is wrapping up.

The Raleigh cook-off has been held in the fall for the past two years, as part of World of Bluegrass week. But this year’s heavy rains during that week forced a cancellation. Organizers still hoped to be able to put on a barbecue championship, though, particularly since it is a major annual fund-raising event for the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle.

So, they looked ahead to the next big downtown event – the Christmas parade.

“We thought it would be a perfect fit,” said Jennifer Martin, executive director of the Greater Raleigh Merchants Association, which puts on the parade.

As in recent years, the parade will start at 9:40 a.m. at the intersection of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets, then proceed to the State Capitol and down Fayetteville Street before ending at Lenoir Street. Barbecue sandwiches will be sold for $5 at the corner of Fayetteville and Lenoir from 11 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Quarts of barbecue also will be available for $10.

Children can stay in the festive spirit at the barbecue sales area by meeting costumed characters such as Spider-Man, the Hulk and Elsa from “Frozen,” starting at noon.

The Raleigh Christmas Parade will feature 21 marching bands, including most Wake County high schools, Shaw University and the Helping Hand Mission Band.

Other details:

Time: Though the parade doesn’t start until 9:40 a.m., some downtown street closures could begin as early as 8 a.m. The parade should end around noon.

TV: Broadcast from 10 a.m. until noon on WRAL.

Grand marshal: John Odom, a past director and board member of the merchants association who helped organize more than 30 past parades. Odom also is a departing Raleigh City Council member, though Martin said he was selected not because of his political role but for all his work with the association. “We felt it would be more than appropriate to say thank you to him,” she said.

Other special appearances: Santa Claus, of course; the Carolina Rollergirls roller-derby team and 4-year-old Arlo Jordan, who dresses as his hometown superhero alias, “Raleighman.” Martin described Raleighman as “someone who helps and protects the city and does good.”

Marching bands: 21, including most Wake County high schools, Shaw University and the Helping Hand Mission Band.

Large helium balloons: 3

Weather: Sunny but on the chilly side.

Parade’s claim to fame: It’s the largest Christmas parade between Washington, D.C., and Atlanta.

After the parade: The Downtown Raleigh Alliance will officially open its ice skating rink in City Plaza. The rink will be open through Jan. 30. Cost, including skate rental, is $10.

Thad Ogburn: 919-829-8987, @thadogburn