The annual Canton Optimist Christmas Parade will return at 6 p.m. Saturday for the 33rd edition of this event, partnering this year with the Cherokee County Fire Department to collect donations for Toys For Tots.

“With the cancellation of the Ball Ground Christmas Parade and the Toys for Tots program that is a part of that parade, we thought it was important to incorporate that aspect into our parade this year,” Canton Optimist Club President Lori Flink said. “We partnered with Tim Cavender of Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services to bring the Toys for Tots program to this parade.”

Cavender added that the Cherokee Fire Department will have boxes around the parade route, and at Brown Park to collect unwrapped toys for the Toys for Tots program.

“It’s basically the same thing as what we do at the Ball Ground Christmas Parade every year, and what we would have done this year,” Cavender said. “It was important for the Canton Optimist Club to add Toys for Tots to this year’s parade because it gives people a chance to help out families in need who may not be able to get toys for their children this holiday season.”

Along with the parade and toy drive, the Canton Optimist Club has partnered with the Service League of Cherokee County to put together a market place from noon to 6 p.m. before the parade, as well as a music festival from 3-6 p.m.

“We reached out to the Service League because they weren’t able to hold RiverFest this year,” Flink said. “We thought since they do a great job of putting that together every year, that we could partner with them to bring the marketplace and music festival to the parade that day.”

The music festival will kick off with a performance by the tap dancing group “PowerTaps” from 3-3:30 p.m., followed by performances from 2019 Miss Georgia Victoria Hill from 3:30-4 p.m., Country singer William Burke from 4-5 p.m., and then returning act “Jim Knight & Friends” from 5-6 p.m. The marketplace will feature a number of vendors selling various handmade crafts, food, etc. There will also be a virtual Santa in the park from 3-5 p.m.

“We are going to have Santa setup at an office with a laptop or tablet so he can virtually speak and meet with the kids,” Flink said.

Flink added that this year’s parade will have an emphasis on safety of the spectators due to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

“There is a big emphasis on safety of the spectators and shoppers this year due to COVID-19, so with that being said, we are encouraging spectators to not all gather around the Christmas tree in Cannon Park,” she said. “Instead, we are encouraging spectators to spread out all throughout the parade route, which is the entirety of Canton Square, for the safety and benefit of everyone. Social distancing is a must, and there is no mask requirement.”

For those interested in taking part in the parade, there are still spots available. Sign up at Money raised through the entry fees will support the Canton Optimist Club. The parade is set to feature Tim Cavender as Santa, Victoria Hill, and Canton Optimist Club’s “Business of the Year,” Bray & Johnson, among several others.

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Ethan is a reporter covering the cities of Holly Springs & Canton. He also covers city governments and lifestyle. He is a graduate of Kennesaw State University.

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