Columbia rings in holiday season with downtown parade

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COLUMBIA - Mid-Missourians officially kicked off the holiday season Saturday with a parade through downtown Columbia.

While it was the thirty-ninth annual tradition for the city, it was the first year community radio station 89.5 KOPN hosted the event.

The parade was previously organized by Jaycees until they disbanded.

“The goal is to really take our time, create something that’s going to be here in another 30, 40, 50, 100 years. It’s an incredible Columbia tradition, and we want to build on that,” KOPN General Manager Sean Spence told KOMU 8 News at last year's event announcement.

The parade followed the same route as past years, beginning at the corner of College Avenue, going down West Broadway, before ending on Fifth and Locust streets.

Organizers say they sought to rebrand the parade as being more inclusive, spotlighting all cultures and holidays celebrated during the end of the year.

The lineup of about 80 participants included local businesses, civic and service organizations, elected officials, high school marching bands and Santa Claus.

11-year-old Laniya Simmons performed in the parade with a dance team from the Columbia Boys & Club. She said her first time in the parade was much different than watching from the sidewalk.

"At first I was like 'being in the parade is not going to be hard because you just walk down the street.' But then, after that, I actually saw and I was actually in it and I was like 'oh, that's hard. I'm scared now', because I saw all the people," she said.

Hundreds of spectators of all ages lined the parade route to receive free candy and other giveaways under a sunny, blue sky with highs reaching 58 degrees.