Lakeland Christmas Parade returns to celebrate 40th year

The Lakeland Christmas Parade marched through the streets of downtown Thursday, December 2. The holiday tradition took a year off due to the pandemic, but came back in a big way to mark 40 years.

The chairs were lined up early, families claiming their favorite spots along the 1.25-mile route. 

It’s estimated close to 50,000 people came out for the parade. For many, it’s tradition and everyone has their favorite part – from the marching bands to the floats to the firetrucks. This year’s parade featured 88, winding their way through downtown.

The city requested folks not reserve an area until the day of the parade and folks came early, securing their location during the wee morning hours for the 7 p.m. parade of lights and laughter.

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Security is always taken very seriously at the parade, but this year there was heightened awareness after a car plowed into a holiday parade in Wisconsin a week and a half ago.

"We do have a plan. We utilize some of our larger rolling stock like garbage trucks and things of that nature to block certain streets of people can't come into the parade route," said Kevin Cook, the city of Lakeland’s director of communications.

It didn’t dampen the mood, though, as children sat close together along the sidewalks and parents stood to catch the sights.