WHEELING - The 26th-annual Perkins Restaurant and Bakery Fantasy in Lights Parade steps off at 6:30 p.m. Friday, bringing the holiday spirit to downtown Wheeling.
Ninety entries have been selected by parade chairman Bill Bryson, creative director Lee Ann Lander and Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Operations Lisa Mullin. Those 90 were carved out from as many as 250 applications. Chamber President Terry Sterling said of those, 30 are new to the parade.
"We have 19 professionally made and decorated floats sponsored by local companies," Sterling said of both previous and new entries. "This is a huge upgrade to the quality of the parade."
Aside from floats, the crowd should expect a round of classic cars, dancing groups, costumed performers and, of course, Santa's sleigh at the end. This year's grand marshals will be seven Wheeling Ironmen, including Bob Butts, Jake Olsavsky, Don Donatelli, Bob Dunlevy, Perry Jeter, Willie Stinson and Dr. Robert Jones.
Sterling said he encourages parade-goers to consider heading downtown at least an hour before the 6:30 p.m. start to have dinner at one of the city's restaurants and to hear from one of two roving barbershop quartets serenading the crowd. The two quartets will begin their numbers at 5:30 p.m.
From its start at 16th and Market streets, the parade route heads north on Market Street, takes a left on 10th Street and then turns south on Main Street to return to 16th Street.
WesBanco Arena Marketing Director Sonya Fedorko added that Winterfest will return for a second year. Though the parade will not deviate from its traditional route as it did last year to support the young festival, Fedorko said Wheeling Heritage Port and WesBanco Arena will bring the same free entertainment as last year.
"It brings affordable family fun to the parade festivities," she said.
Winterfest is bringing back the faux ice skating rink on the port's lawn and access to a craft show inside the arena lobby at no charge. Local artists Matt VanFossen, Brooke Gold and Loretta and Ellie Garbeck are expected to perform in the hours before the parade on the arena patio. The Winterfest activities will continue into the weekend with free photographs with Santa Claus from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at the port.
Along with Bryson, Lander and Mullin, Sterling said the chamber thanks the city of Wheeling administration, public works department and police department for continued support outside and during the parade as well as the ham radio operators who communicate during the parade to "keep it running smoothly."