By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes
The Festival of Lights Holiday Parade will call Keizer home in 2011 – and maybe a lot longer.
Officials from the Festival of Lights Parade and the city of Keizer made the announcement Monday at the Keizer Civic Center. It will be the evening of Saturday, Dec. 10, 2011.
Warren Franklin, who founded the parade, said he and the nonprofit backing the parade want Keizer to be its home for years to come.
“We didn’t come here just to be here one year and then gone,” Franklin said.
Mayor Lore Christopher said she was “thrilled” for the parade to come to Keizer.
“You fit perfectly with the things that are important to Keizer: Family (and) the holiday spirit,” she added.
Organizers said the illuminated nighttime parade will be held in conjunction with the city’s annual Christmas tree lighting. Franklin said events like the tree lighting and the Gubser neighborhood’s Miracle of Christmas light display make Keizer a natural fit for the Festival of Lights parade.
“This is becoming a festival more than a parade,” Franklin said. “With Keizer already having these events in place, we’ve already got a foundation built.”
He hopes the parade will draw some 50,000 people to River Road.
Having the parade in downtown Salem presented logistical problems; namely, in later years it ended where it began, creating snafus.
“For the last six or seven years we’ve been looking for a different route, said Cheryl Mitchell, chief executive officer of the Festival of Lights. “… We couldn’t grow it anymore because the front met the back.”
The parade has been held in Salem in previous years, but was canceled in 2010. It first graced the streets of the Cherry City in 1990.
The start time and route have yet to be decided, officials from the parade said. It’s traditionally held on the second Saturday in December.
The parade is operated by a nonprofit company. Sponsorship and donation information can be found at folholidayparade.org.