The official Fredericksburg Christmas Parade hits the streets tonight!

The annual Fredericksburg Christmas Parade is one of the season’s most beloved traditions – an event for which, in my experience, a child who describes the smallest walk as “a hike” will happily hoof it ten-plus blocks, and that puts joy in the heart of the crowd-averse and holiday-skeptical adult.

Here are five things to know as you enjoy this year’s event, which starts at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday and will take place rain or shine.

  1. This year’s theme is “Christmas Under the Sea.” Sonja Cantu, the city’s public information officer, said the parade team has a list of themes going back 20 years and works not to duplicate a previous year’s theme. “Staff selects themes that are visually fun and engaging while being broad enough for floats to get creative in their own ways,” she said.
  2. There are 80 entrants in the parade this year – but only one Santa! No one else is allowed to wear a full Santa costume. This is the 9th year that Santa John Symonds will ride his sleigh in the Fredericksburg Parade. He’ll be in town Friday night to visit with children for First Friday at the Visitor’s Center and then will have breakfast at Fredericksburg Academy on Saturday morning. “Then I’ll hopefully get a little nap at the hotel before I go to the parade and find my sleigh,” Santa Symonds told the Advance. “I just love the kids and love to see the families together. It’s such a fun time just to ride the sleigh and see all the families having fun and reach back to them with my ‘ho ho ho.’”
  3. This year’s Grand Marshal, who helps Santa lead the parade, is Grace Anne Braxton, a Fredericksburg native, Special Olympian and two-time U.S. Disabled Golf Association women’s champion. Grace Anne was inducted into the Virginia Golf Hall of Fame last year and represented the U.S. in golf at the Special Olympics in Berlin this summer. She’s also competed in Alpine skiing, athletics, basketball, floor hockey, golf, speed skating, swimming and volleyball. When she’s not being a champion, she works in food service at the University of Mary Washington.
  4. The parade is an annual tradition – but no one knows for sure how long it’s been going on! “We don’t have the exact year that it began in our records. I would like to find a volunteer who could help us research the event’s history,” Cantu told the Advance. “It’s definitely a long-standing tradition in the city that goes back as far as we can remember!”
  5. City staff plan for the parade year-round and almost every department is involved – police, parks and recreation, fire, public works, the sheriff’s office, economic development and tourism, the city manager’s office and more. Partner organizations, such as Main Street Fredericksburg, and volunteers and sponsors are also essential. “Teamwork and tradition” are what make the event successful, Cantu said. “It’s really cool to see how the community comes out to participate in the parade. This event is such a holiday tradition in downtown. We see grandparents that have brought their children for years and are now bringing their grandchildren to the parade.”

The parade begins on Caroline Street at Charlotte Street and ends on Princess Anne Street at Lafayette Boulevard. Parking is restricted on the parade route and adjacent streets. See the picture below for the route, parking locations and street closures, which begin at 3 p.m. and end at 9 p.m.