Petal-area residents can look forward to a full day’s worth of holiday activities with the upcoming 2021 Petal Home for the Holidays event, which will showcase a parade, vendors, a Christmas tree lighting and more. Festivities, which are put on by the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce, beginning with a Christmas Market at 3 p.m. Dec. 4 at Hinton Park, behind Petal Civic Center on South Main Street.
“First of all, it’s a community tradition – we know that this is the type of event that makes our community happy to be where they are,” said Valerie Wilson, executive director of the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce. “We’re very proud of the fact that we can put on events like this in our community, and to keep the spirit of Christmas here in Petal.
“I think (residents) absolutely did a wonderful job shopping in Petal for Shop Petal First. This year, because of COVID, we appreciate being able to get together and have our events right here to enjoy being part of our community.”
The Christmas Market, which will last until 7 p.m., will feature several vendors selling items such as arts and crafts, food and holiday-themed gifts.
The parade will start at 4 p.m. and will follow its usual route from Dirt Cheap on North Main Street to Hinton Park, where Santa Claus will be available for photographs. Awards will be given out, and Mayor Tony Ducker will be on hand to greet parade-goers.
The parade will open up with the parade banner, which will be carried by representatives from the Petal Fire Department and Petal Police Department. So far, approximately 50 float entries have signed up to take part in the parade.“We’ve got everything from golf carts to dirt bikes to large floats, to the Petal High School band,” Wilson said. “We’ll have lots of pageant award winners, and everybody will be represented. “And this year, we have somewhat of a special surprise: for the first time in many, many years, Santa will not be on top of the fire truck. We wanted people, especially the children, to be able to see him better, so he will be at the end of the parade.”
The Grand Marshal for this year’s parade is Max Fullen, the 13-year-old son of Randy Fullen and Elizabeth Dodge who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer. Fullen suffered a stroke while in school and had a lengthy stay at Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital in Jackson. Fullen has gone through several rounds of radiation and chemotherapy since being diagnosed.
“We actually put it out on Facebook, and we had a ton of people that were very good nominees,” Wilson said. “But Max was overwhelming – we had so many people saying that Max would be a great grand marshal, mostly because of the courage he has shown, and the strength he has shown.
“He represents the very best of people, and at this time of the year, that’s what you want your grand marshal to be – somebody that represents the best of us, and that was Max. So we’re thrilled to have him as our grand marshal, and we look forward to giving him a wonderful evening leading the parade.”
Judges for the parade will be Jim Cameron, Caroline Nurkin and Jake Wilson. The event will be followed by the Celebration in the Park and the Festival of Trees, which will feature a tree-lighting ceremony in honor of Christmas.
“The Festival of Trees is various trees that have been put up by businesses and individuals and clubs in Petal,” Wilson said. “They will all be lit at the same time right after the parade. The Petal Arts Council is in charge of the Festival of Trees. “Also during that time, we’ll have live music; the Petal Jazz Band will be playing. Much love will flow through the community.”
Petal’s Christmas festivities date back to at least 1962, when the Petal Merchant’s Association put on the city’s Christmas parade. In 1974 – the year the City of Petal was incorporated – city officials took over handling the parade.
“This has been an event that even the older people in our community – the seniors – remember,” Wilson said. “We want to re-create those same memories for the children in our area now.”
In addition to the chamber activities, Petal High School Indoor Percussion is presenting Breakfast with Santa from 8:30-10:30 a.m. at the Petal Primary School cafeteria. Tickets are $7 each and are available for purchase at the door, or from any Indoor Percussion student. Participants are encouraged to bring their own cameras for pictures with Santa Claus.
Also, the Cosmopolitan Club of Petal will host “Let’s Jingle & Flamingle” tasting take-out from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Dec. 4 in front of Petal Middle School on East Central Avenue.
Story by Haskell Burns