Santa Claus parade set today

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 24, 2009

NATCHEZ — More than 350 candy-throwing Santa Claus Committee members are escorting the man selected to be Santa Claus’ helper around Natchez today in the 81st Santa Claus Parade.

The parade starts at 8:15 a.m. with the escorting of Jeff Burkhalter from his home to the first of 14 stops on the route.

The group will start at Mount Carmel Subdivision then head to the subdivisions of Oakland, Brooklyn, Brookfield, Montebello, Eastbrook, Westover, Dunkerron, Highland, The Trees and Fatherland.

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The day will draw to a close with the committee stopping at Oakhurst, Roselawn and Glenwood subdivisions.

“We’ll be in the downtown area and in most of the neighborhoods,” committee co-chairman Johnny Byrne said. “This is something that is unique to Natchez.”

Byrne said every year, out-of-towners come to Natchez to see the parade and participate in the event.

Founded in 1928, the Santa Parade has allowed local businessmen to give back to area children at Christmas time.

Byrne, who has been a member of the committee since 1979, said there are two stops in the parade that he and committee members enjoy the most — caroling at the Natchez Children’s Home and giving out gifts at Braden School.

Byrne said while he and his fellow committee members enjoy everything about the event’s festivities, the caroling and gift giving are the best parts of the day.

“The most important feeling I get is when I’m sitting in the Natchez Children’s Home singing carols with the kids,” Byrne said. “It’s pretty amazing seeing grown men standing around singing with children and seeing tears in their eyes.

“I think this thing means just as much to the committee members as it does the kids. They enjoy it equally.”