Ocala Christmas Parade

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Posted December 9, 2023 | Staff report -- Photos by Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette

Every second Saturday of December, one of the nation’s oldest and largest nighttime holiday parades takes to the streets of Ocala.

The Ocala Christmas Parade has been dazzling onlookers for more than six decades. The event on Dec. 9 continued the tradition of showcasing local groups, with a wide assortment of gaily decorated floats, marching and mounted units, vintage and exotic vehicles and, as always, parade VIP Santa Claus. The theme of the parade was “Christmas Around the World.”

The Friends of the Christmas Parade put on the annual event. According to their post on social media, this year’s Best of Show honors went to Fernandina Beach Pirates. First through third place winners were: Nonprofit – Wings of Faith, Ocala Jeep Club and Heart of Florida; Commercial – A&L Tree Service, Next Dimension Construction and Wind FM; Bands – Westport High School, Lake Weir High School and Belleview Middle and High School; Youth Organization – Boy Scout Troop 18, Marion Technical College and Naturals Baseball.

The parade committee selected the Gray family as grand marshals for this year’s event. Ryan and Kait Gray are the founders of the McKenzie’s Moment nonprofit in Ocala. According to the Friends’ Facebook page, the 501(c)(3) has “donated more than $3,000,000 into the city of Ocala, through Christmas Toy Drives, Birthday Clubs, School Safety Initiatives in partnership with the Public Education Foundation of Marion County and, most notably, a $1.7 million donation to help create the McKenzie Kearney Gray Maternal Fetal Medicine Program at AdventHealth Ocala.”

During the parade, another nonprofit, Interfaith Emergency Services, accepted nonperishable food items in exchange for candy. The donated food will help local families through the holidays.

To learn more about the annual parade, go to ocalachristmasparade.org or find it on Facebook.

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