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Christmas parade going back to pre-2017 route

Dropping 12th Ave. will allow traffic to get through city

In 2006, when secular agencies took over the city’s annual Christmas parade from the Blair County Ecumenical Conference, they compressed the route, eliminating a leg over the 17th Street bridge to concentrate crowds along 11th Avenue, creating the shoulder-to-shoulder feel of Christmas season in the 1950s.

Two years ago, the Greater Altoona Economic Development Corp. and its partner agencies expanded the route, adding two blocks on 12th Avenue.

This year, at the request of the Altoona Police Department, GAEDC will shrink the parade back to its pre-2017 route, leaving 12th Avenue clear for traffic before, during and after the parade.

“It will be much easier to get people through town at 4 and at 5 than it was shutting (that avenue) down the last couple of years,” said Patrick Miller, CEO of GAEDC, which is a committee of the Altoona Blair County Development Corp.

“It has been very inconvenient,” Miller said.

It will be easier for police to control traffic, for commuters to get through the downtown area, for participants and their floats to reach the staging spaces on 10th Avenue expressway and for parade participants to leave downtown following the parade, according to Miller.

Miller is expecting nearly 100 units, with about 50 having signed up as of late last week.

Included will be church and agency floats, school marching bands, twirler and dance groups, vintage vehicles, musical units from the Jaffa Shrine and Santa on a restored fire truck owned by featured sponsor Burgmeier Hauling.

Postal workers will walk along the curbs to collect letters to Santa.

GAEDC has asked organizations distributing candy to lay it near the curbs or hand it to children watching, rather than throw it from floats and vehicles, to avoid injury from the candy itself and to keep kids from venturing into the paths of vehicles, Miller said.

Jodi Cessna, executive director of the Central Pennsylvania Community Foundation, will be the parade marshal, Miller said.

Tenth Avenue expressway will be closed starting at

4 p.m. the day of the parade, so that it can be used for staging, Miller said.

Participants will line up on the inside and the outside lanes, with the middle lane reserved for parade-related traffic.

The units will line up in designated spaces, to enter the parade route in a predetermined sequence, to ensure “a nice mix of units,” Miller said.

It won’t be “first come, first served,” like some community parades, said Altoona Parking Authority Chairman Jerry Hymes.

GAEDC has asked downtown businesses to extend their hours that day — an extension that will benefit them, as well as parade attendees, Miller said.

If they remain open, parade-goers can visit the businesses that have launched over the last few years, said Hymes, who moved his Saleme Insurance Services office to 11th Avenue in the early 1980s.

He sold the business six years ago but is nevertheless pleased to see the street “gradually come alive,” he said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

If you go

What: Downtown Spirit of Christmas Parade

When: 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5, just after tree lighting in Heritage Plaza

Theme: “A Magical Christmas”

Other information:

– Step off at Ninth Street and Green Avenue; then Green Avenue to 12th Street; 12th Street to 11th Avenue; 11th Avenue to 16th Street

– There will be kids’ games, hot chocolate and popcorn in Heritage Plaza before the parade.

– Fireworks will launched from the far side of the 10th Avenue expressway after the parade.

– Restrooms in Heritage Plaza will be closed, as they will have already been winterized.

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