HELENA — Helena’s downtown Walking Mall was packed with people Friday evening, as they welcomed back a local holiday tradition – the Parade of Lights.
The parade featured 26 floats and other vehicles, dancers, first responders – and of course, plenty of Santas.
Last year, Downtown Helena, Inc. tried to find a way to keep the event going, but they eventually had to cancel it because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Danny and Jennifer Lamb were watching with their daughters Irelyn, 9, and Georgia, 7. The family moved to Helena about two years ago, so they were getting their first look at the parade.
“We were excited for last year, and unfortunately we missed it because of them not having the parade,” said Danny Lamb. “But we get to come this year, and we’re really excited.”
Organizers said they’re happy the parade could finally return.
“This is a huge staple of this community, and we’re really glad to bring this back to Helena, to Downtown,” said operations director Mike Rooney.
This year’s theme was “Candyland,” and many participants gave their floats a sweet flavor. That includes a colorful entry from the Premiere Dance Company, inspired by the Candyland board game. Natalya Routzahn, Eliana Lundstrom and Mikayla Stafford helped put the float together and rode on it Friday night.
“I’m glad that we’re doing it as a full company,” said Routzahn. “It’s nice to have all my fellow members on it.”
The company is getting ready for its upcoming show, “The Christmas Attic,” on December 18 and 19.
Everyone watching the parade had their own favorite parts.
“Probably the lights,” said Irelyn Lamb.
“Probably the chance that my friend might be in this parade,” said Georgia Lamb.
The celebration culminated with the lighting of the historic Helena Fire Tower, which will shine throughout the holiday season.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated. Original post below:
A Helena holiday tradition is making its return Friday night, as the Parade of Lights comes back to the downtown Walking Mall.
“This is a huge staple of this community, and we’re really glad to bring this back to Helena, to Downtown,” said Downtown Helena, Inc. operations director Mike Rooney.
Rooney was out Friday morning setting up signs for the parade.
Last year, Downtown Helena tried to find a way to keep the event going, but they eventually had to cancel it because of COVID-19 restrictions.
“There was definitely a lot of frustration last year,” said Rooney. “It’s really good to have it back this year, and I think especially with the nicer weather that we’re going to have – maybe a little bit of snow – I think it’s a great time to bring it back.”
26 floats are signed up to take part in the parade.
“It’s going to be pretty packed,” Rooney said. “I’m expecting a lot of crowd.”
This year, the route will be shorter than usual – running from 6th Avenue to Anchor Park along Last Chance Gulch. Rooney says they didn’t have enough warning signs to close off additional streets this year.
The parade will begin at 6 p.m. It will culminate with the traditional lighting of the historic Fire Tower around 7 or 7:30, following a speech from Mayor Wilmot Collins.
The Parade of Lights kicks off the holiday season for Downtown Helena. Rooney encouraged people coming down to consider shopping at local businesses this weekend as well.