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Americas Best holiday First Friday
Santa, tiny floats, chili, arts and Tormenta FC
Dino Mills and wife Karen encourage great-grandson Logan NeSmith, 2, to wave back at Santa during the 2014 Holiday Celebration in downtown Statesboro. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/file

After one year in existence, the Tormenta FC pro soccer organization will take an honored place in Statesboro’s First Friday Holiday Celebration, joining Santa and Mrs. Claus, ballroom and ballet dancers, craft vendors, cooks competing in the Chili Cook-off and runners Friday for the 5:30 - 8 p.m. festivities downtown.

As masters of ceremonies for the 2016 celebration, Tormenta Football Club Head Coach and General Manager Ben Freakley and seven professional players are slated to walk in the little parade, meet the public and have pictures taken. Meanwhile, some younger players from the club’s regional Youth Academy will run in the Run the Boro 5K, said Tormenta FC team President Darin Van Tassell.

“What an honor!” Van Tassell said. “Here a year ago we didn’t even have a team name, and now we get to be master of ceremonies at what’s really Statesboro’s biggest downtown celebration.”


Run the Boro

Coinciding with the start of the festival, the city is hosting the fifth annual Run the Boro 5K, with all proceeds to go to the Food Bank Inc., serving people in need in Bulloch County. Runners will set out from City Hall at 5:30 p.m.

This year the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority, or DSDA, which organizes the Holiday Celebration as one of its monthly First Friday events, is inviting people to “run the Boro Blue Mile.”

Runners can register for $25, with registration online at closing at 7 a.m. and registration at City Hall closing at 4 p.m. Friday. Registration checks should be made payable to “City of Statesboro.”

After the 5K, festival-goers can sample chili for $1 at the 2016 Chili Cook-off, sponsored by Statesboro Natural Gas and the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau. All donations to the Chili Cook-off will also benefit the Food Bank, the DSDA announced.


The little parade

The annual decorated golf cart parade, which opens the celebration for those not out running, will begin on West Main Street near Gee Da’s Table restaurant at 5:45 p.m. and end at the railroad on East Main, said DSDA office manager and events coordinator Elena McLendon. That’s about two good blocks.

“We’re looking forward to being part of the shortest, most outstanding Christmas parade there is,” Van Tassell said.

Live entertainment on the courthouse lawn is sponsored by the East Georgia Center for Oral & Facial Surgery. The Averitt Center for the Arts Youth Chorale, the Statesboro Strings program, Pladd Dot’s School of Rock, the Southern Saxophones, a Trinity Church ensemble and competitors from Dancing with the Statesboro Stars are scheduled to perform. Additionally, the Statesboro Youth Ballet will perform a free show, with doors opening at 7:45 p.m., in the Emma Kelly Theater on East Main Street.


Dancing with Stars

The Dancing with the Statesboro Stars performance is a new addition to the entertainment lineup, giving people who did not catch the event in October an opportunity to see what it’s like.

“As a producer of Dancing with the Statesboro Stars, I am so excited about our group of dancers performing in the downtown Holiday Celebration,” director Melanie Lewis said in a DSDA news release. “We will be performing our opening number routines. The top two judges’ choice winners and the top two fundraising winners will dance.”


Kids’ stuff

For children, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be available for photographs by Adam Pittman inside Santa’s workshop at the Emma Kelly Theater. Additionally, the Kids’ Farm train ride will be operating in the Sea Island Bank parking lot.

Meanwhile, local vendors will sell food and handcrafted merchandise. The Downtown Statesboro Development Authority also encourages everyone to shop in downtown stores and dine at local restaurants.

The DSDA’s announcement refers to the 2016 festival as the America’s Best Communities Holiday Celebration as Statesboro remains one of eight national finalists in the ABC competition. Statesboro’s Blue Mile plan will be judged again in April for a potential top prize of $1 million, $2 million or $3 million for the revitalization of South Main Street.

This is the third consecutive year athletes have emceed the holiday festivities. Last year’s master of ceremonies was former Chicago Bears lineman and Georgia Southern University Eagles star Adrian Peterson, after 2014’s turn by Eagles men's head basketball coach Mark Byington, who shared the honor with players.


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