The day will be only a few hours old but thousands of chairs will already be perched along New Port Richey streets as people mark their places to watch tonight’s Holiday Street Parade.
People start staking out spots as early as 8 a.m.
A good half of the people lining the route this evening will be under 10 years old and focused on only one float, said Greg Armstrong, past president of the Rotary Club of Holiday and one of the parade organizers for nearly three decades.
“They’re waiting for the last float,” he said.
That would be the one with Santa.
Tonight marks the 35th holiday parade which after seven years of declining or flat participation, is back to its peak with 130 entrants, an increase of 12 percent over last year, Armstrong said.
The parade gets rolling at 6 p.m., an hour earlier than usual. That’s to allow the participants to assemble during daylight. Floats, bands and marching groups will start gathering at 4 p.m.
It will probably be 8 p.m. when the final float, the one carrying Santa, reaches the finish at Main Street and U.S. 19. Those at the head of the parade will hit the finish about 6:40 p.m., Armstrong said.
The parade will start near Gulf High School and Grand Boulevard and head to Main Street with the end at 19.
Streets around Gulf High School will shut down about 4 p.m. to allow the parade to assemble and the rest of the streets along the route will close at 5:30 p.m.
Participants and watchers can expect temperatures in the high 60s and a breeze of about 10 mph during the parade, but the National Weather Service forecast includes only a 10 percent chance for rain this evening.
There is no judging of the floats, but all must be fully decorated with most of the lights powered by portable generators, Armstrong said. About 10 bands are also registered to march.
With so many children along the route, safety is a major concern and a police officer will be stationed at every intersection. Also, Rotary Club volunteers will be along the route.
No one under 13 years old is allowed to walk the parade and each float has two monitors who walk at the front corners.
“We’re asking people to be vigilant and report any unsafe situations they see,” Armstrong said.
Also, organizers are asking that people use the 200 trash containers on the streets to minimize the work to clean things after the parade.
This is the first year organizers have had to face a cut in the help provided by the city as the town tries to save money.
Normally, the parade wrangles in about 70 volunteers. This year, about 200 are helping out to replace the labor the city once provided.
“All six of the west Pasco Rotary Clubs joined in,” Armstrong said.
The parade is sponsored by the Rotary Club of Holiday and the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce.