Christmas Counts in Bradley

Hundreds line the curbs along Broadway as members of the Bradley Police Department Honor Guard await the start of the annual Bradley Christmas Fantasy Parade in 2018. This year’s parade steps off at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6.

Come see the original lighted Christmas parade in Kankakee County. The 34th annual Bradley Lighted Christmas Fantasy Parade will feature 50 to 60 parade participants including lighted floats and vehicles representing businesses and nonprofit and youth organizations. The parade also features emergency vehicles, four to five school marching bands and the Diamond in the Rough Color Guard.

Parade entrants always put their creativity to the test vying for the cash prizes given to the top floats in the business and general/club categories. The parade will be Friday, Dec. 6. This year’s theme is “Christmas Counts.” Lineup begins at 5:30 p.m. with the parade stepping off at 6:30 p.m. from Forest to Washington on West Broadway.

For the safety of spectators and parade entrants, there will be no parking allowed on Broadway.

Junior parade marshals and Santa’s Helpers will be Miss Merry Christmas Gianna Lopez and Master Jack Frost David Lumpkins.

After the parade, children can visit Santa at village hall.

“The parade is a great way to start the Christmas season,” said Gail Schultz, who has been working on the parade committee since the early 1990s and serves as parade coordinator. “It’s a holiday tradition. It’s the excitement everybody shares and seeing the creativity of the floats that keep people coming to view the parade or participate in the parade year after year.

“It’s important to continue this tradition,” she said. “This is Bradley’s big holiday event that the community and whole region look forward to. People from all over come out to enjoy the parade.”

Village administrator Catherine Wojnarowski echoed that sentiment, saying, “Come enjoy this wonderful Christmas tradition here in the village of Bradley.”

And it’s the tradition of the parade that makes it so special. In many cases, the parents or grandparents watching young loved ones in the parade were once in the parade themselves. For others, the tradition is securing the same spot each year to watch the parade.

And the parade is put on each year seamlessly – all by volunteers. The parade planning committee meets several times each year to plan the event. On parade night, volunteers help with line-up and along the parade route.

How did the parade committee come up with the Christmas Counts theme?

“As always, we try to make our parade theme as general as possible to see the variety of interpretation by our parade participants, especially in the float designs,” said Schultz. “Many people have already heard the Census is coming in 2020 and how important an accurate count is for each of our communities. Our effort to help ensure the 2020 Census counts everyone begins with our Christmas parade theme. But Christmas Counts can also mean how important Christmas is or maybe how the kids are counting the days until Christmas arrives or maybe you’re counting on special family time this holiday season or maybe it does mean how each person counts, any time of year.”

And while the parade is in its 34th year, the tradition of Santa arriving on Broadway dates back even further.

As far back as Schultz can remember, Santa would arrive on a Saturday on Broadway by firetruck for all the boys and girls to see and visit.

Over the years, the holiday tradition grew. The first lighted Christmas parade was held in 1985, led and organized by the Broadway Business Council and the local chamber. Today, the village of Bradley sponsors and coordinates the parade.

“We appreciate the people who come out, the businesses and organizations who participate and the village board for continuing to support it,” said Schultz. “It’s a great way to start the Christmas season.”

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