HELENA – Helena officially kicked off the holiday season Friday evening, with the annual Parade of Lights through downtown.
The parade has been a tradition in Helena for more than 20 years. Hundreds of people lined up along Last Chance Gulch to watch 31 floats and other entries pass by.
Jessica Smith brought her 2 ½-year-old daughter Audrey to the parade for the first time. There was a lot to catch her attention.
“I think she likes just anything that’s lights and sparkly,” said Smith.
Mayor Wilmot Collins rode with his wife and son on a float pulled by the Helena Fire Department. It was his first time taking part since being officially sworn in as mayor, but he said he’s attended many times in previous years.
“I enjoy the camaraderie, I enjoy the community coming together – and I enjoy the floats, I enjoy the kids on the side of the streets cheering on the floats,” he said. “It’s just awesome to see the community come together.”
There was relatively favorable weather for the parade. A quick snow shower came through several hours before the festivities began, but it was calm and fairly mild for the actual event.
This year, the parade’s theme was “Christmas Characters,” and there were plenty of them to see, from reindeer to elves to the Grinch – plus several sightings of the most popular guest, Santa Claus.
The parade closed with the traditional illumination of the historic Helena Fire Tower. Organizers haven’t been able to hang lights on the tower because of damage from a fire in 2016, but the group Friends of the Fire Tower used floodlights to light it up.
The Parade of Lights is organized each year by Downtown Helena, Inc., and the Helena Business Improvement District.