Participants hard at work preparing for Christmas parade

The 16th annual Holiday Lights Parade in Arlington is just around the corner, and participants are hard at work preparing for the big event

  • Two students from Northstar School work to affix lights to their parade float (Photo by Jason Waite / Arlington Voice)
    Two students from Northstar School work to affix lights to their parade float (Photo by Jason Waite / Arlington Voice)
  • Another two students hard at work attaching lights to the Northstar parade float. When finished, it will feature a giant snowglobe large enough to fit two teens (Photo by Jason Waite / Arlington Voice)
    Another two students hard at work attaching lights to the Northstar parade float. When finished, it will feature a giant snow globe large enough to fit two teens (Photo by Jason Waite / Arlington Voice)
Zack Maxwell

Temperatures have taken a plunge just in time for one of Arlington’s most treasured traditions, the Holiday Lights Parade.

For the students and staff at Northstar School, a private school in Arlington, it marks another two weeks of construction on their signature parade floats.

“This is an opportunity to teach our kids important community and teamwork skills,” said Erin Jezek, the school's science department head who doubles as float construction supervisor.

On Monday, about eight students labored over what will soon be a float that features a snow globe large enough to hold two of the school’s senior girls.

A second float, called the Candy Chalet, will carry several of the school’s musicians. As a requirement, each student enrolled at Northstar must learn an instrument to enrich their knowledge and discipline.

“It’s not an easy feat to accomplish,”Jezek said of the construction process. “Most people don’t even realize our school is here, so this gives us great exposure in the community.”

In its 16th year, the Holiday Lights Parade has grown to more than 100 entries. Co-chair of the parade’s committee, Scott Reading, loves to help organize the event because it gives him an excuse to think about Christmas all year.

“One neat thing is that I was picked to handle the Christmas tree vendor,” Reading said. “It’s the middle of summer and I’m talking about a Christmas tree with our vendor and my kids were just amazed about being able to order a tree.”

The parade ends with a ceremonial lighting of the Christmas tree, which is performed by the mayor.

It’s expected that as many as 15,000 people will attend this year’s parade. Due to construction around Abram Street and South Center Street, the parade will take a slightly different route. This year, it will start and end in the parking lot of UT Arlington’s Social Work building.

Reading said the logistics behind staging the floats is the toughest part of organizing the event.

“Keeping the parade moving and making sure floats are keeping pace to prevent gaps is tough,” Reading said. “We’ll have close to 20 volunteers in the staging area alone.”

About 200 volunteers are needed to ensure the parade’s success, most of which are junior and senior students from Arlington ISD.

The parade also happens rain or shine. And even though last year’s parade was dampened by a light drizzle, it didn’t deter die-hard fans.

“We have a dedicated fan base and dedicated parade floats,” Reading said. “We have such great support.”

The parade has only been canceled once in its history, and that was in 2013 when the city experienced freezing rain and inclement weather.

UTA men’s basketball coach Scott Cross will be the Grand Marshal of the parade this year.

“We look at different things when selecting a Grand Marshal, such as community involvement,” Reading said. “Coach Cross did an amazing job with UTA’s win in the NIT (National Invitation Tournament), and is the most ‘winningnest’ coach at UTA.”

A full afternoon of festivities, which starts at 2 p.m., is scheduled leading up to the parade. A new feature this year is a snowball fight that will occur at Dream Field -- the empty property just west of Levitt Pavilion which features a large DREAM sculpture.  

“We’ll have about 1,500 artificial snowballs ready for guests who donate $1 to Mission Arlington,” Reading said. “They can get in there and throw snowballs around. We expect it to be a lot of fun.”

And of course, what Christmas parade would be complete without an appearance from Santa?

Enchant Christmas, an ongoing Christmas festival occurring near Globe Life Park, has agreed to provide Santa’s float.

The parade is an opportunity for friends and family to get into the spirit of Christmas. For Northstar, it’s an annual tradition that strengthens its bonds.

“We think of ourselves as a family,” Jezek said. “This is a great way to get us together as a family to build that bond of trust and community.”

Barring icy conditions, the Holiday Lights Parade is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 9 at 6 p.m.

This story is part of the Arlington Voice's 25 Days of Good News