The holiday season will be ushered in this weekend when streets in downtown Fort Oglethorpe and Ringgold, and points in between, become the scene of annual Christmas parades complete with floats, bands and the arrival of Santa Claus.
Festivities begin Friday, Dec. 2, when Ringgold holds its Down Home Christmas parade and celebration, according to Daniel Shepherd, the city's marketing coordinator.
"City Manager Dan Wright says he remembers Down Home Christmas from when he was hired in 1993," Shepherd said.
This year's event begins with a 6 p.m. parade and continues with festivities at the former Western & Atlantic Depot, he said.
Entertainment will be provided by groups from Kids Station Christian Learning Center, Tiger Creek, Ringgold and Wood Station elementary schools as well as the appearance by special guests from TADA Dance Academy.
Winning entries in the Ross Andrews Coloring Contest will be on display, refreshments will be served and there will be plenty of time for children to meet and have their photograph taken with Santa.
Shepherd said there is no charge for any of the activities inside the depot and many downtown merchants will stay open late as part of the Christmas celebration.
Saturday night, Dec. 3, Fort Oglethorpe Fire & Rescue hosts that city's annual Christmas parade.
"We have been coordinating this annual event since 2000," said Connie Haddock, an administrative captain with the department.
Haddock said Peggy Stanfield will be marshal for this year's parade consisting of fire trucks, floats, cars, trucks and - weather permitting - Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School's marching band and JROTC unit.
"We don't allow candy being thrown from floats, but walkers will distribute candy for the length of the parade route," Haddock said.
More information and parade entry forms can be found at the Fire & Rescue website, picked up at the department's administrative office at 201 Forrest Road or obtained by by calling 706-861-4059.
Parade sponsor Capital Bank will present plaques to winning entrants, Haddock said.
The parade will form behind Capital Bank, Office Depot and Radio Shack, step off at 6 p.m. and proceed along Battlefield Parkway until turning left onto U.S. Highway 27. The parade will then head south on U.S. Highway 27/Lafayette Road before ending at about 7 p.m. near the polo field entrance to Barnhardt Circle at Harker Street.
Haddock said all parade participants are being asked to bring an unwrapped gift for donation to the Catoosa County Stocking Full of Love.
This weekend of parades concludes on Sunday, Dec. 4, when hundreds and hundreds of motorcyclists from the surrounding area gather for the annual Stocking Full of Love Toy Run, a rolling thunder revue that departs Fort Oglethorpe at 2 p.m. and follows Battlefield Parkway to U.S. Highway 41 and on into downtown Ringgold.