Flowery Branch was alive with the spirit of Christmas on Saturday at its eighth annual Christmas Festival held downtown, drawing young and old out to enjoy many family-friendly festivities.
The day began with a 5-kilometer “Jingle Jog” road race held by Flowery Branch High School, followed by the festival opening ceremony. Later a parade made its way through downtown, with performances by Flowery Branch High School marching band and Fused Dance Center.
Concluding the parade were Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus riding aboard a Hall County fire truck.
Throughout the day, attendees could visit a variety of local vendors and shops, visit with Santa and enjoy free s’mores until the lighting of the Christmas tree.
“This is actually the smallest the parade has ever been, but it’s OK. We are a small town and we like small,” Steve Soucie, parade director, said with a laugh. “We usually have anywhere between 2,000 and 3,000 visitors every year though, and we are expecting that again for today.”
For Dennis Naughton, band director of Flowery Branch High School, the parade has been a tradition for him and his students for the past four years.
“We use this parade as kind of a service project,” Naughton said. “We host the 5K in the morning, and then the city of Flowery Branch lets us play in the parade in the afternoon. The marching band will be in the parade, and the wind ensemble will play the lighting of the Christmas tree later today actually. It’s great to be able to give back and bring joy to the community while playing music like that.”
For others, the festival is the perfect time to be with family.
“I’m a mom and also a dancer with Fused Dance Center,” Amy Sumrak said. “I’ve always loved clogging, and my daughter is a dancer in this group, too. Coming to the parade and being able to share time with her is fun, plus dressing up in Christmas attire and dancing to Christmas music really puts you in the holiday spirit.”
Erica Garcia and her family recently moved to Flowery Branch, and the Christmas festival was a must on their to-do list.
“We just moved from Sugar Hill where we lived for 16 years,” said Garcia. “We haven’t even been here a month. We’ve always celebrated Christmas by going to parades in the past though, and we thought coming out to the festival today would be a good chance to get out and experience our new community. It’s kind of small compared to what we are used to, but so far we are really enjoying it.”