Get your blankets, cocoa and holiday-themed face coverings ready — the annual Athens-Limestone County Christmas Parade is officially set for the first Thursday in December.

Tree Lighting 2018 -1

Rachael Saifi and her daughter, June Saifi, get a picture with Santa Claus at the Christmas tree-lighting on The Square Thursday night in Athens. The Saifis, who just moved to Athens from Washington, happily stumbled upon the annual celebration, including the Athens Trustmark Christmas Parade.

This year's theme is "A Christmas Wish: Love, Unity and Community" and will be used for several community events during the holiday season. The Greater Limestone County Chamber of Commerce announced Friday the formation of a committee to host the parade, with several local organizations represented.

"The Chamber is thrilled to continue our community's annual tradition by hosting the 2020 Athens Christmas Parade for our citizens to enjoy this Christmas season," said Jennifer Williamson, president of the Chamber. "... We look forward to highlighting our businesses and community as we celebrate the Christmas holiday with our Christmas parade."

Those represented on the committee include the Chamber, Athens Main Street, City of Athens, Limestone County Commission, Athens-Limestone County Tourism Association, Limestone County Schools, Athens City Schools and several community advocates, according to a release from the Chamber. Blake Williams, president and CEO of Blake Williams Communications, was chosen to chair the committee.

"I am looking forward to working with the Chamber and several great community organizations to bring Christmas joy to the entire county," Williams said. "I want to encourage everyone to participate in this year's Limestone County Christmas festivities."

The parade will begin 6 p.m. Dec. 3 at Athens Middle School on U.S. 31 and follow the same route as previous years — west on Hobbs Street, south on Jefferson Street, east on Market Street, south on Marion Street, west on Washington Street, south on Jefferson Street and ending at the Hometown Shopping Center.

Betty Christopher, who has worked with the parade since 2004, will serve as grand marshal. Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks said she "has been an integral part of providing Athens with a much-loved Christmas tradition."

"I cannot imagine our 'Classic. Southern. Character' hometown without a Christmas parade," Marks said. "It is one of the highlights of the year in Athens."

Limestone County Commission Chairman Collin Daly echoed the sentiment, saying, "There's no place like Christmas in Limestone County. The community spirit created by Ms. Christopher during this parade for many years is the core of this partnership that has come together to honor her and kick off the Christmas season in Limestone County."

The Chamber, Athens Main Street, Tourism, Limestone County Commission and City of Athens will have applications to participate in the parade available on each of their websites. Applications can be turned in 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays at the Chamber office, 101 S. Beaty St., Athens.

Deadline to register is 4 p.m. Nov. 4. Participants and attendees are encouraged to follow all local and state health guidelines during the parade.

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