The Hensville Lights are turned on for the first time along St. Clair Street in November, 2016.
Some argue that the holiday season begins when Jolly Old Saint Nick rolls through Manhattan at the tail of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Toledoans, though, are getting an earlier start.
Seasonal festivities kick off this year as early as Saturday, when The Blade Holiday Parade will see marching bands, floats, balloons, and, of course, a hand-waving Santa Claus wend through downtown streets beginning at 10 a.m. The jolly gift-giver will sit for free photos at Imagination Station between noon and 5 p.m., and two downtown tree lightings, at Promenade Park at 5:30 p.m. and at Hensville at 6 p.m., are set to end the day on a festive note.
The Blade Holiday Parade, sponsored by Taylor Automotive Group and the Distinguished Clown Corps, is a 30-year tradition that accounts for one of the biggest parades in the region, last year drawing an estimated 20,000 spectators. Parade Director Katelin Reinhart said that, this year, more units than ever are lined up to participate.
“The Holiday Parade is one of the most fun things we do at The Blade,” said Kurt Franck, executive editor, executive vice president, and interim general manager. “It’s great to see the smiles from kids of all ages, young and old. It’s something we really love being a part of.”
Marchers, including grand marshal and Walleye captain Alden Hirschfeld, will cut a new route this year, stepping off from the corner of North Summit Street and Jefferson Avenue and continuing to ring cheer down portions of North Summit, Jackson, North Huron, and Washington streets.
Reinhart said those who line the route this year can anticipate some long-time favorites, like the Distinguished Clown Corps, a group of community leaders who have been donning clown getups for as long as the parade has been kicking off the season. Viewers can also anticipate new sights, like an updated lineup of balloons and floats.
Clowns ride the elevator in the Edison Building down to the first floor for the bell ceremony before the start of the 29th annual Blade Holiday Parade in Downtown Toledo.
In a nod to Veterans Day, a brief service in front of Promenade Park will begin this year’s parade at 10 a.m. Bo Steele, of the Alabama-based Band Steele, will perform the national anthem, and the Liberty Aviation Museum, in Port Clinton, will provide planes for a patriotic flyover.
Deck the Downtown, a series of community events slated after the parade, will continue the festive fun later in the day. ProMedica will welcome carolers, local bands, games, food trucks, and Santa Claus to Promenade Park between 4:30 and 7:30 p.m.; the tree to be lit there at 5:30 p.m. is 60 feet tall. Strolling carolers in Hensville will accompany the 6 p.m. lighting there of a 45-foot tree and block of dancing lights.
For more information on The Blade Holiday Parade, go to bladeparade.toledoblade.com. Here are a few other ways to keep up the seasonal spirit through the rest of the month:
■ Snapshots with Santa: Franklin Park Mall in Toledo will be the first to welcome St. Nick with a “grand arrival” party, featuring carolers and dance performances, between 5 and 8 p.m. Nov. 16; Santa will sit for photos each day afterward through Dec. 24. The Town Center at Levis Commons in Perrysburg will welcome him next at a ’90s-themed tree lighting and arrival party between 6 and 9 p.m. Nov. 18; he’ll sit for photos select days afterward. And the Shops at Fallen Timbers in Maumee joins the fun Nov. 24 with an arrival party between 5:30 and 7 p.m. Santa will stay put each day through Christmas Eve. Information: shoppingfranklinparkmall.com, shopleviscommons.com, or theshopsatfallentimbers.com
■ Hensville Lights: More than 200,000 twinkling lights will turn St. Clair Street into a winter wonderland beginning Saturday. Visitors can watch the the lights, arranged on buildings between Washington and Monroe streets, as they dance in sync to music through Jan. 20. Information: hensvilletoledo.com
■ Lights Before Christmas: More than 1 million lights will illuminate the Toledo Zoo, which will invite guests to visit after dark between Nov. 17 and Dec. 31. Hours are 3-8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 3-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Non-member tickets are $17 for adults and $14 for children and seniors. Information: toledozoo.org/lights
■ A 1920s Christmas: Holiday Lantern Tours continue with a twist at Sauder Village. On Nov. 25 and Dec. 2, 8, and 9, guests who make reservations in advance can experience the holiday traditions of the 1920s. Non-member tickets are $13 for adults and $7 for children. Information: saudervillage.org or 800-590-9755
■ Maumee Holiday Light Parade: As many as 60 lighted floats will lead Santa Claus through portions of Ford, West Wayne, and Conant streets on Nov. 25. They’ll take off around 6:30 p.m., once the Holiday Hustle 5K wraps up, and drop off Santa near the Maumee Indoor Theatre to visit with children. Parade route and information: maumeeuptown.com or 419-893-5805