Santa Claus is coming to town this weekend - at least for Chester County residents - appearing in West Chester for the 29th annual Old Fashioned Christmas celebration.
The small-town tradition, which has grown to a regional holiday experience, was scheduled to begin last night and continue until Sunday.
The celebration features historical walking tours and reenactments, caroling, and the traditional parade, scheduled for this evening. The parade will begin at 6:45 at New and Market Streets, and end with Santa lighting the community tree in front of the county courthouse.
More than 60 groups will participate in the parade, including marching bands from local high schools, West Chester University, the Falun Dafa Asian Drummers, the Caporales San Simon Bolivian Dancers, and several Clydesdale horses from Clydesdale Ridge Farms. There also will be floats and antique cars.
"Santa Claus is actually going to be pulled in a carriage by Clydesdales this year," said Katie Walker, president of the West Chester Chamber of Commerce. "It's a nice way to kick off the holiday season, and it really just gets people together."
Todd Marcocci - owner of Under the Sun Productions, a West Chester-based production company - is organizing the parade, and he wants it to be diverse.
"It's just not your local marching band; it's not your local this, that . . .," said Marcocci, who has produced the Thanksgiving Day parade in Philadelphia and the National Independence Day parade in Washington, among others.
"You bring in a 250-member marching band from across the other side of the county. You bring a band from Bucks County. You bring a bagpipe group. You bring Asian drummers. You bring Bolivian dancers. You bring all these different things in, and that's what makes it very special."
The parade tends to bring out the culture and tradition of the community, as citizens stroll sidewalks in Victorian dress eating roasted chestnuts from street vendors.
"I saw the first one," said Bob Gross, a 38-year West Chester resident. "It's gotten bigger and better. Now you've got professionals involved, where before it was by the seat of the pants."