Parade to light up Carbondale

By Gus Bode

Lights Fantastic kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Saturday

Everyone remembers the scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation when Chevy Chase unveils his master holiday Christmas light creation. That doesn’t even begin to compare to the illumination of the Lights Fantastic Parade.

The Lights Fantastic Parade, now in its 12th year, features 72 entries of floats, bands and novelty vehicles, all with a lighted theme of holiday spirit. The parade hits the road at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, starting off in front of the SIU Recreation Center.

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Angela Romano, an organizer for the event, said SIUC students are usually active in the parade by volunteering and assisting in float building. Most importantly, though, they are part of the audience.

The event draws between 20,000 and 25,000 spectators each year, and the city is expecting this year to be no exception.

“It’s right in between the two holidays [Thanksgiving and Christmas], so everyone’s in the holiday mood,” she said. “It’s supposed to be a crisp, clear night with no snow, so hopefully everyone will want to come out and enjoy the festivities.”

Each entry is required to present a holiday theme complete with Christmas lights to illuminate the nighttime parade. However, the floats are restricted from including Santa Claus in their designs.

“We have one Santa at the end of the parade, and we just felt the kids, in general, are bombarded with Santa at this time of year, and don’t need to be confused by multiple Santas throughout the parade,” Romano said.

The Lights Fantastic Parade also features four super floats, or floats with more than 20,000 lights.

This year, the re-designed City of Carbondale float will sport more than 32,000 lights created from dozens of strings of lights from local stores. Two generators also power the float.

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Don Snider, traffic control supervisor, said the organization has been working on the float, which features a Snoopy-looking dog and Woodstock-looking bird, since Nov. 1. Now that the deadline is approaching, the group is trucking to the finish line.

“Time is the biggest challenge when it comes to building something like this,” said he said. “The design’s not hard, it’s basically just racing the clock.”

The City of Carbondale is also in charge of traffic control when the parade begins. Snider said the community usually doesn’t have problems when the parade roles through, it’s just a matter of following signs.

“As long as the drivers use common sense, then everything will be fine,” he said.

Reporter Katie A. Davis can be reached at [email protected]

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