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The Daily Tar Heel

Hillsborough's holiday parade aims to bring community together


John Snipes riding in his car the Heelraiser in the Hillsborough Christmas Parade.

Preparations have begun for Hillsborough’s “Light Up the Night” Holiday Parade, set to take place at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 4.

The parade will travel south on Churton Street, starting at Corbin Street, and end at the intersection of Margaret Lane and Cameron Street. Participants in the parade, which is managed by the Hillsborough/Orange County Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by Hillsborough's Tourism Board, typically include local businesses, cheerleading teams and dance troupes, bands and town politicians.

Among this year’s entries to the parade are the Orange High School Marching Band and Faulkner’s Elite Gymnastics, along with food truck services by Drizzle D’s Mini Donut truck.  

Phil Ford, former assistant coach for UNC basketball and the 1978 NABC National Player of the Year, will be this year’s grand marshal.

Starting 15 minutes before the parade and running the same route, the annual Running of the Elves race will be take place.

After the parade, the day’s festivities will be capped off with the annual tree lighting ceremony and community singing event at Old Courthouse Square.

Mich Faulkner, owner of Faulkner’s Elite Gymnastics in Graham, said his gym will return to the parade with two floats featuring the 45-person competitive gymnastics team and a set of younger gymnasts.

“The students enjoy it,” Faulkner, who used to serve on the Parade Planning Committee, said, “It's not super long, and it's always a good crowd for the length it is. That's a nice thing. It's not super, super long, but it's also beautiful.”

The Orange High School marching band will also return to this year’s festivities. Jacqueline Johnson, the new director of bands at the school, said that this will be her first year at the event.

“It's just such a fantastic way to showcase the band, and the marching band specifically, in the community,” Johnson said.

She said the parade is an opportunity not only for the community to show its support for the band, but also for her students to take on an active role in the community.

“I feel really fortunate that our band program has a strong history in the community,” Johnson said.

This event, like many others in recent years, was negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, the parade was held virtually, with participants sending in 30-second videos for their part in the celebration.

Since 2021, however, the festivities have been able to proceed fully in-person. Kathleen Ferguson, a member of the Hillsborough Board of Commissioners,  said that those involved in the planning process of the parade expect this year’s event to be as well-received as in years past. 

Ferguson said that public events have started to return to high attendance, with increased revenue from food and beverage taxes indicating economic recovery. According to the parade’s Special Event Permit, 5,000 people are expected to attend this year.

“We're coming right back into it,” Faulkner said.

The Hillsborough Holiday Parade serves to bring the community together, Ferguson said.

The parade is also intergenerational, with Hillsborough residents of all ages coming out to see the parade’s floats and performances. While the Holiday Parade features several repeat participants who take part year after year, there are also new groups to discover, Ferguson said.

For her, it's a true Hillsborough family tradition.

“It's all of the elements," Ferguson said. "It's changing seasons. It's the Christmas and holiday seasons. It's the coming together again of all generations, all walks of life, all united."

@DTHCityState |

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