The 2012 Gatlinburg Christmas Parade is no small thing. It is one of three major events in the Gatlinburg Winter Magic celebration. This year the parade is on Friday, December 7th at 7:30 p.m., and it is the 37th year of this exciting, traditional event.
There are no less than 100 entries in the parade again this year! Huge helium balloons and 12 marching bands, some from four other states, will be part of the show and, of course, Santa Claus. The Grand Marshals of the parade this year are Sharky and Sharkette from Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies. How many Christmas parades have had sharks as grand marshals? Probably no others have done this.
The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile will be in the parade, too! It is 60 hot dogs long, 20 hot dogs high and 18 hot dogs wide. It weighs 140,500 hot dogs. This famous vehicle was designed in 1936 by Oscar Mayer's nephew, Carl Mayer. No one wants to miss that.
It is expected that 80,000 people will view the parade this year as usual, so get street-side seats early. The parade will run for about an hour and a half. Winter coats and hot drinks will get you through the whole event.
This is a popular family event, naturally, so restaurants in Gatlinburg will be full from about 5:00-7:00 p.m. before the parade; attendees will need to plan accordingly. Santa will be signing autographs at 6:00 p.m. that evening at the Riverbend Mall. This is in front of the Welcome Center at traffic light #3.
The Gatlinburg Christmas Parade begins on Highway 321 at traffic light 1A and proceeds toward downtown to traffic light #10. Find a place to enjoy the parade between those two lights and life will be good. It takes too long to eat over in Pigeon Forge before the parade to get good seats near starting time, unless you eat very early. Some stake out their area all through the day of the parade.
Gatlinburg adds to the parade by decorating big trees in lights that can be seen along the parade route, and the businesses along the way decorate also. Parade goers look wintry and festive in coats, hats and mittens. The parade lights are all LED bulbs for an energy efficient display. Many parade participants are enthusiastic local residents in holiday costumes.
The ubiquitous Shriners make every parade more fun, and this one is no exception. The unique and wondrous floats always try to outdo each other every year. Dance teams do their part for the festivities throughout the parade, too, and there are always horses! Equestrian groups are an important part of the parade. This makes for some amazing entertainment in Gatlinburg!
The Fantasy of Lights Parade is an apt name for this event. There are lights on top of lights for twinkling every where you look. It is an award-winning parade, literally, and well done for a city the size of Gatlinburg.