WHAT: Grand Bay Country Christmas and Spectacular Parade of Lights
WHEN: Friday and Saturday, Dec. 4-5

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, members of Citizens for a Better Grand Bay cut down a 30-foot cypress tree, donated to the community by longtime Grand Bay resident Buddy Patteson. The tree was loaded on a flatbed truck, fastened securely, and began its journey to the center of town, the south side of U.S. Highway 90 at Grand Bay Wilmer Road across from Century Bank.  

This week, the tree will be adorned with strands of lights, while schoolchildren, church members, office workers, members of civic organizations and other individuals will create dozens of brightly colored, personal ornaments to decorate the tree.  

Kelli Bratton, events coordinator for Citizens for a Better Grand Bay, said the ornaments will be somewhat waterproof. Some of the most outstanding and noticeable decorations last year were cardboard circle cut-outs wrapped in aluminum foil wrapping paper, and empty soda and water bottles in all sizes decorated with sparkles or stuffed with tissue paper. Decorating will begin when the tree is erected and ornaments will continue to be added until the Dec. 4 lighting.

At 5 p.m., Santa will breeze into town on a firetruck and flip the switch to turn on the Christmas tree lights to kick off the 21st annual Grand Bay Country Christmas celebration.

Santa and his elves will pose for photos with children, who can also take a train ride, visit Christmas Village, sing carols and, in general, “Rock Around the Christmas Tree.” For those a little older, there’ll be a climbing wall and a bungee jump.
One purpose of Grand Bay’s Country Christmas is to inspire and promote community and togetherness, Bratton said. Many businesses will be open after hours, offering refreshments, door prizes and sales to show their appreciation for the citizens’ patronage.

Festivities resume Dec. 5 at 9 a.m. at the Grand Bay-St. Elmo Senior Community Center, where children from infants to 18 years of age are invited to compete in the Mr. and Miss Grand Bay Country Christmas Costume Contest. Children will be dressed in their best holiday or winter-season costumes, and winners and alternates, wearing the crowns and sashes they’ve earned, will ride a float in Saturday night’s lighted parade.

Of course, there’s always food and drink for sale, but this year there’s also a Chili Cook-Off. Professional chefs and amateur cooks (defined as “any home-cooking talented person”) will prepare dishes in the Red and/or Vegetarian Red Chili categories. Cooks pay a fee, prepare their chili and hope the team of judges pick theirs for a cash prize. Public “tasters” get to select the chili for the Overall Best title.

Activities will continue throughout the day, and at nightfall people are invited to converge upon the parade route to enjoy Mobile County’s largest lighted parade, the Spectacular Parade of Lights.

Kimon Brown of Citizens for a Better Grand Bay said traditionally, 45-60 units participate in the parade, including a variety of Christmas-themed floats, church and civic groups, high-school marching bands, Sheriff’s Posse members on horseback, fire trucks, antique autos, dance teams and some local farmers on tractors. The Grand Marshal will be District Judge Jay York.  

All the work and creativity that goes into preparing a float is not taken lightly, and for some participants, not in vain. Brown said the floats are judged and winners given awards.

Grand Bay Country Christmas and the Spectacular Parade of Lights are projects of Citizens for a Better Grand Bay, and proceeds benefit some of the all-volunteer organization’s programs. Brown said that includes the Library Fund (the century-old State Bank building is being renovated into Grand Bay Library and Agricultural Museum), Meals on Wheels, senior transportation, GED classes, senior activities and the Senior Nutrition Program, Compassionate Care Outreach to the community’s working poor and homeless, Family Food Boxes, cooking classes, computer classes and an upcoming Youth Program 2016.

For more information on any aspect of the Grand Bay Country Christmas and Spectacular Parade of Lights Dec. 4 and 5, call Bratton at 251-644-2080.