Santa Claus and his helpers will usher in the holiday season when the 49th annual Hometown Christmas Parade makes its way through downtown Johnstown.
The celebration, which includes Light-Up Night, will begin at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
The event is sponsored by Discover Downtown Johnstown Partnership.
The parade will feature flying helium-filled balloons, along with closer-to-the-ground cold-air balloons, high school marching bands, community groups and local organizations.
Santa Claus will be in the honored spot as the final entry.
“Ever since we added the Christmas Tree @ Central Park to the event, it really has made the event grow even further than our expectations,” said Sharon Honkus, who is organizing the holiday promotion with Discover Downtown Johnstown Partnership.
“The parade really has grown. We used to have 15 or 20 entries. Now, we’re well over 40 for this year already.”
After coming up Main Street from Sargent’s Stadium at the Point, the parade will turn left onto Clinton Street, then make its way down Locust Street, allowing Santa to stop at Central Park, where he will turn on the lights and make Light-Up Night official.
“Up past Walnut Street is the best place to view the parade,” Honkus said.
Taking center stage will be the 36-foot-tall Christmas tree that has been programmed to twinkle, shimmer and fade in time with holiday music.
The tree’s animated show will be held from noon to 1 p.m. daily and from 5 to 11 p.m. each night except Saturday, when live entertainment will be provided before the show begins at 6 p.m.
New this year is an additional song programmed for the tree, bringing it up to 10 songs.
Ten new little houses will become a part of the Christmas Village, along with more animation spread throughout the park.
“We also have a special secret surprise for Light-Up Night that we’re calling ‘Raise Your Hand.’ This is our fifth year for the tree and we wanted something special. It’s sponsored by Pennsylvania Highlands Community College for its 25th anniversary,” Honkus said.
The Enchanted Videos at Central Park will once again project holiday videos onto the AmeriServ Financial building, 216 Franklin St.
Melissa Radovanic, president of Discover Downtown Johnstown Partnership, said they have enjoyed watching the impact that the Christmas Tree @ Central Park has had on the community.
“Over the last five years, we have greatly changed the scope of Christmas in downtown, and we are very proud to bring that to the community that we love,” she said.
“I have noticed over the last five years a true sense of joy throughout the holiday season in downtown. Light-Up Night kicks off a wonderful season in downtown, and the crowds the last few years have proven how important this event is to the community.”
Santa Claus will take his seat in the gazebo, where he will greet children and allow them to share Christmas wishes.
Alternative Community Resource Program will hand out goodies to children while supplies last.
Somerset Trust Co. will provide sleigh rides from 4 to 5:30 p.m. from its Market Street location.
Those looking to reminisce about Christmases past can stop into AmeriServ Financial to view the vintage Glosser Bros. and Penn Traffic holiday displays from 5 to 6 p.m.
The Ugly Sweater Run to benefit Wings of Hope will begin at 5:45 p.m. Information on the race can be found on the Wings of Hope Facebook page.
Members of the Johnstown Symphony Chorus will sing Christmas carols on the steps of City Hall from 6 to 6:30 p.m.
Keeping in the holiday spirit, the Stone Bridge will shine with red and green lights during the parade and Light-Up Night.
“I’m hopeful each year that we continue to bring joy, happiness and a sense of pride to our community,” Radovanic said.
“Whether it is children or adults, the parade and Light-Up Night brings a special feeling of community and that is what I hope everyone can experience on that night and throughout the season.”
Honkus said that people attending the event will experience that old-fashioned, hometown feeling of everyone coming together in the heart of the city.
“Every year this gets bigger and bigger, and we want to continue to make it new each year by adding either new songs to the tree or other new components,” she said.
“We want people to have brand-new memories for Christmas.”
Organizers said regardless of the weather, the events will take place as scheduled.