Downtown Wonderland 2

Celebrate the Holiday Season with the 2015 Parade of Lights

As diverse and urbane as any major city, Fort Worth maintains a treasured fidelity to traditions and annual events that reach across demographics to unite the citizenry. Whether it’s the MAIN ST. Arts Festival, Concerts in the Garden or the Parade of Lights, Cowtown residents turn out to celebrate — and embrace one another as shared inheritors of a proud cultural legacy. The beloved Parade of Lights returns this year for its 33rd annual incarnation in downtown Fort Worth. Event planners have organized a day to welcome the holiday season in style, and set a new standard for future parades in the process.

“The Parade of Lights is a signature event for the city,” says Larry Anfin, chairman of the Festivals and Events Committee for Downtown Fort Worth Initiatives, Inc. “You can really feel the energy when everybody’s down there, and we’ve got a great one planned for this year.”

The 2015 Parade of Lights will take place on Sunday, November 22, a change from previous years. In the past, the parade occurred the day after Thanksgiving — Black Friday — which created some problems for downtown retailers.

“We estimate that last year we had around 150,000 attendees,” says Larry. “We’ve been so successful bringing people to downtown, that some of the businesses had trouble doing business. That’s why this year we’re hosting the parade on Sunday, a slower retail day.”

Attendees can expect a couple other innovations for the 2015 parade. This year, the lighting of the Sundance Square Christmas Tree will provide a capstone for the event, and will occur as the parade’s grand finale. Santa Claus himself, who will commandeer a float festooned with 15,000 LED lights, will oversee the tree lighting.

Other signature floats will include those from Parade of Lights’ title sponsor XTO Energy, sponsors GM Financial, Wells Fargo and JPS Foundation, and a special float featuring the Texas Girls’ Choir. An additional air of excitement surrounds plans for Lockheed Martin’s float, which will feature “special effects.” You wouldn’t have a parade without marching bands, and six award-winning troupes from Fort Worth ISD schools will ensure a full playlist of seasonal favorites.

With three decades of history for inspiration, it makes sense that this year’s parade should promise to be bigger and better than ever. The Parade of Lights began in 1983 thanks largely to the efforts of two Fort Worth ISD employees: art director Bobbie Brooks and band director Howard Freeman. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade provided a model, and a partnership with Downtown Fort Worth, Inc. ensured the logistical support to spark one of the Metroplex’s finest holiday traditions. With more than a hundred thousand annual attendees, it’s safe to consider the Parade of Lights an unqualified success.

The 2015 edition of the parade will occur as a daylong set of festivities. The party gets started at 2 p.m. in Sundance Square, at which time an extended bus service begins from Farrington Field. Attendees are welcome to arrive at 4:30 p.m. to secure a good spot. Early arrival also ensures a couple of hours to shop downtown merchants or grab a cup of hot chocolate before the bulk of the crowd descends. Around this time, the Cowboy Santas will make their way down the parade route to collect toys, and guests can enjoy other special acts in the hour before the parade’s kick-off.

The parade itself will begin at 6:00 p.m., with Santa’s float scheduled for its departure at 7:10 p.m. The Sundance Square Christmas tree will be lit at 7:45 p.m., after which attendees can enjoy the fellowship and cheer of the season in the square and around downtown’s bevy of restaurants and bars. The last departure for the parade’s extended bus service will leave for Farrington Field promptly at 10 p.m.

In a fitting act of homage to the parade’s beginnings, a trio of Fort Worth ISD leaders will serve as this year’s grand marshals. School board president Jacinto Ramos Jr. will join interim superintendent Pat Linares and superintendent Kent Scribner to welcome the season and celebrate Fort Worth’s heritage.

If you’ve attended the parade before, you will need little encouragement to experience it again. For those that have never experienced the magic and fellowship of the parade, get ready for a treat: a spectacle of lights and floats unburdened by over-the-top commercial ambitions or advertising, where the focus falls squarely on sharing the spirit and joy of the holidays. For many people, the Parade of Lights embodies the very best of Fort Worth’s identity.

“The greatest thing about Fort Worth is that, while people may have differences in opinion, there is a common desire to make things better for the city,” says Larry. “The XTO Energy Parade of Lights represents that tradition.”