Nashville Christmas Parade will follow a new route through Music City

David Smith | GCA News

Kids of all ages and kids at heart are expected to be downtown at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, December 2 to watch the annual Christmas Parade that will feature more than 500 performers and celebrities.

Mike Fisher, former captain of the Nashville Predators is this year’s Grand Marshal. Accompanying Fisher will be 15 character balloons, some 30 feet tall, including Tweety Bird, Twinkle the Snowman and Foofa the Drum Majorette.

While suspended in air, Santa and his reindeer will be swaying to the beat of a dozen
marching bands, including the Aristocrat of Bands from Tennessee State University.

Mercy Me will be Honorary Music Marshals. Other performers will include Adairs Run, Benita Washington, Evin, Halfway to Hazard, Josh Gallagher, Maggie Rose, MARi, Rachel Potter, Shenandoah, Temecula Road and Ty Herndon.

An estimated 50,000 to 80,000 people are expected to line the streets at this year’s Nashville Christmas Parade.    - photos submitted

An estimated 50,000 to 80,000 people are expected to line the streets at this year’s Nashville Christmas Parade. – photos submitted

Good Morning Nashville anchors Neil Orne and Nikki Burdine, along with meteorologist Jared Plushnick, will host the parade live from downtown Nashville beginning at 9 a.m.

This year the parade will start on top of the Woodland Street Bridge, head down First Street and go up Broadway.In years past, the route was reversed.

“The new path is designed to make for a better viewing experience for the public,” says Stephen Francescon, Community Relations Manager at Piedmont Natural Gas, sponsors of the Christmas Parade.

Francescon says families will have more space along the riverfront to get a better look at the floats and balloons. In addition, this year the performance zone is closer to the end of the parade, at Fifth Avenue and Broadway.

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According to the Mayor’s Office, an estimated 70,000 people are expected to line the streets.
Nashville’s Christmas Parade, which dates back to November 28, 1927, has since been a staple of Middle Tennessee’s holiday festivities. Numerous organizations and entertainers have participated in the parade since its inception, spreading holiday cheer to thousands of parade goers.

The Associated Retailers  of Nashville was the original sponsor of the first parade. By 1930, Nashville’s daily newspapers were sponsoring the parade, along with WLAC Radio. In 1947, Newspaper Printing Corporation took sole sponsorship for the parade and was involved through 1951. Nashville Gas Company became the sponsor in 1952, and the utility, now known as Piedmont Natural Gas, continues as sponsor.

During its history, there have been numerous parade routes. The original parade ended where it started at the Haymarket on South Second Street. In the 1940s and 1950s, spectators packed Church Street to enjoy the festivities. The route was later moved from Church Street to Broadway in 1958, where it is currently held.

Additionally, the parade was held in the afternoon in 1952 after occurring at night for many years. In 2015, the parade moved to its present Saturday morning time.

Throughout the years, large numbers of Nashville residents and out-of-town guests have gathered to see the parade whether it was held during the day or at night.

For example, in 1956 more than 200,000 people lined the streets when rumors spread that Elvis might make an appearance. Although he never showed up, longtime parade spectators have seen stars such as Conway Twitty, Emmylou Harris, Charlie Daniels and Brenda Lee, who served as grand marshals.

In 2016, the parade was televised nationally for the first time in its 89 years. Original American Idol Kelly Clarkson was grand marshal.