Celebration of Lights raises thousands

Cumming Parade kicks off holiday season

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FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — More than 3,000 people attended Northside Hospital-Forsyth’s 25th annual Celebration of Lights on Dec. 6.

Another 3,000 celebrated on Market Place Boulevard Dec. 7 to watch about 65 floats during the Cumming Parade.

On Dec. 6, families enjoyed food, entertainment and a visit from Santa Claus under a tent set up in the parking lot of Northside Hospital, 1200 Northside Forsyth Drive.

The celebration benefits patients and furthering the education, research and treatment of cancer services at Northside Hospital’s cancer institute.

“Northside is so proud to have helped so many survivors,” said Lynn Jackson, Northside Forsyth’s administrator. “All the support has helped us ensure the quality of our service that we provide and are continued by these celebration programs.”

WSB-TV Channel 2 Action News anchor Fred Blankenship emceed for the seventh year and introduced the night’s entertainment by the Sawnee Ballet, Born to Dance, Forsyth Central High School and Haw Creek, Findley Oaks and Coal Mountain elementary schools.

“This is one of my favorite events of the year because of what we celebrate and what we are trying to do,” Blankenship said.

Children also enjoyed arts and crafts, cookie decorating, a bouncy house and a petting zoo before the night’s main event – the lighting of the giant Christmas tree atop the hospital’s roof.

Each light on the tree represents the life of someone who has been touched by cancer.

Jackson said there was a special survivor Christmas tree inside the tent for which participants purchased lights, and it will be moved to the cancer center to share hope with patients.

The following day, families and visitors lined the streets of Market Place Boulevard in Cumming to catch a glimpse of 65 floats and parade marchers, the greatest number ever in the history of the parade.

Thousands of pieces of candy were tossed to the happy, eager children who lined the streets watching floats, the 116th Army Georgia National Guard marching band, decorated vehicles, an antique fire engine and the finale, Santa Claus riding in a little red sports car.

Anna Taylor Barlow, director of tourism for the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, said the weather or early start time did not hurt.

“We feel the merchants like the time,” said Barlow, “and traffic was not bad with the earlier start this year.”

Aldo Nahed, Shubhi Tangri and Helen Borland contributed reporting for this article.