PAULDING — What was once just a parade has snowballed into an afternoon extravaganza in the village.
“When we started Merry and Bright, we envisioned it becoming more than a parade, and each year it continues to get bigger and brighter,” said Brenda Crawford, Merry and Bright committee chairman.
Festivities will get underway Sunday beginning at 1:30 p.m. with the second annual Christmas Pageant, organized by Lindsey and Co. Hair Studio. The pageant will be held in the sanctuary at Branch Christian Fellowship Church, 109 N. Main St. Registration is closed, but all are welcome to attend.
Then, beginning at 2 p.m., Shop the Square vendors will be open for business in vacant buildings downtown. More than 20 vendors and many small businesses will be on hand for those looking to shop local this holiday season. Stop by the Small Business Innovation Center, 103 E. Perry St., to pick up a shopper booklet with a map of vendors, plus coupons from area businesses.
Several other activities and events are scheduled to take place before the parade gets underway.
New this year will be a free wagon ride to Santa’s Barnyard at St. Paul Lutheran Church, with rides beginning at 3 p.m. from the Cook & Gorrell parking lot, 112 N. Water St., traveling down Jackson Street to the church, where there will be a petting zoo. The Boy Scouts will offer warm marshmallows.
Other highlights of the wagon ride will include a stop at the Paulding County Senior Center, 401 E. Jackson St., where participants can hop off for food and make a craft sponsored by the Campground Kids 4-H Club. Rides also will travel down Christmas Card Lane, giving a glimpse of the giant Christmas cards sponsored by businesses, organizations and families throughout the county.
Attendees can grab a Santa Express Passport at Herb Monroe Park, then starting at 3 p.m., make a dash to visit all 12 Santa Stops downtown. Some Santa Stops will feature fun activities and free treats or drinks, while others will encourage participants to help others. Bring new gloves, mittens, hats or scarves to help decorate the Warmth Tree at Holly, Wood, and Vine, 1251 N. Williams St. All items will be donated to those who need them.
Non-perishable food items will be collected at E&R Ceramics, 102 E. Jackson St., to be donated to local food pantries. Stop by Pam’s Cutting Edge, 104 E. Jackson St., to write a Christmas card to a member of the military, or join the Girl Scouts of Paulding County at the Masonic Lodge in making tie blankets for area nursing homes. Visit at least 10 Santa Stops to be entered to win a basket full of items donated by area organizations and businesses. A complete list of stops is available at the Merry and Bright Christmas Celebration Facebook page.
Other planned activities include: a baked potato and taco bar in the basement of Branch Christian Fellowship Church hosted by The Bargain Bin beginning at 3 p.m.; an ugly Christmas sweater contest for all ages from 3-5 p.m. at Paulding VFW Post 587, 214 N. Water St.; ice sculpting by Ice Creations beginning at 3:30 p.m. at Main and Jackson streets; and the second annual Jingle Bell Jog beginning at 4 p.m. at St. Paul Lutheran Church. Participants are encouraged to wear their best Christmas attire — and of course, jingle bells — for this short-distance race that will travel down Jackson Street, to Main Street, then back up Jackson Street to conclude at the senior center.
Antwerp Presbyterian Church will provide candy canes, and the Paulding Fire Department and EMS will be making s’mores. The Oakwood Alumni Band is slated to perform in front of First Financial Bank, 201 N. Main St., during the celebration.
Throughout the event, free hot drinks and warming stations will be available.
All activities will wrap up before the parade kicks off at 5:30 p.m., immediately after the downtown tree lighting at 5:25 p.m.
The parade will begin at St. Paul Lutheran Church and continue west on Jackson Street, ending at the corner of Jackson and Williams streets. To register for the parade, visit pauldingchamber.com.