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First Friday Holiday Celebration to bring parade, chili and more
In this photo from the 2018 Downtown Christmas celebration, Vishakha Patel, right, enjoys the Christmas parade.

The annual Holiday Celebration hosted by the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority, or DSDA, comes to town this First Friday, Dec. 3, from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., featuring the parade, the Chili Town cook off, craft, gift and food vendors, Santa and musical entertainment.

East Main Street will be closed to through traffic beginning at 3 p.m., which is also when set up for the chili cook off will begin at Chili Town, in the parking lot across from City Hall at the corner of Oak Street and East Main. Judges are scheduled to collect their samples of chili at 5 p.m. Then the Statesboro Natural Gas Chili Town will open to the public at 5:30.

More about Chili Town and its awards, including one the public decides and which raises money for the Boys & Girls Club, appears below.


Santa’s parade

Start time for the parade is also 5:30 p.m. By tradition, brightly decorated little vehicles such as golfcarts play a leading role in this brief parade, ushering Santa Claus from West Main Street to City Hall at 50 East Main. But the parade, while still totaling just 25-30 units, has welcomed a variety of other vehicles, reports DSDA Events Coordinator Elena McLendon.

“The parade is looking really good,” she said Tuesday. “The dune buggies are coming back, the trolley; the fire engine with Santa and the Missus will be at the end. We have some classic cars from Southern Cruisers. We also have some off-road vehicles and tractors. We’re going to get a bucket truck from Vyve (Broadband), which they’re going to decorate.”

After riding in the parade, Santa will appear at the “photo booth” in the Emma Kelly Theater lobby. McLendon recommends that festival-goers bring a smartphone or camera and snap their own pictures of Santa hearing their children’s or friends’ Christmas wishes.


Stage and hayride

Live, local entertainment scheduled for the community stage on the Courthouse Square includes the Cotton Rose School of Dance, now affiliated with the Averitt Center for the Arts, and ensembles from Southeast Bulloch High School’s band and choral programs.

Meanwhile, Synovus will be hosting a hayride, with a trailer, in the bank’s parking area. This ride is a successor to the kiddie train of past years, but with the hayride the whole family can participate, McLendon observed.


Holiday vendors

The last First Friday festival of the year also serves as a holiday shopping and snacking opportunity, as well as a place to fill up on chili.

“We have great variety, probably a good 50 or 60 vendors,” she said. “Arts, crafts, food – I have somebody that is bringing ‘hot chocolate bombs,’ signed up. Jewelry, hand-knitted items.”

A hot chocolate bomb looks like a decorative bon-bon, she said. When it’s placed in a cup and hot milk is poured over it, it dissolves, or “explodes,” to make hot chocolate complete with marshmallows.

Another vendor, All Fired Up, will be among those selling unique local ceramics, fine arts and jewelry.

Meanwhile, a Student Maker Market will be held at the Georgia Southern Business Innovation Group’s downtown entrepreneurship center. Along with this, a hot-air balloon is slated to appear – for display only and not rides – in the center’s parking area at East Main and Railroad Streets.


Hot chili awards

The Statesboro Convention & Visitors Bureau, now known as Visit Statesboro, organizes the chili cooking contest with sponsorship from the city’s natural gas service. Some of Statesboro’s best amateur and professional chili chefs compete for awards in four categories: Overall Best Chili, Best Restaurant Chili, People’s Choice and Best-Decorated Booth.

About 35 chili cooking teams had signed up by Tuesday, the announced deadline to enter.

“We’re very happy with that turnout. It’s going to be a big event,” said Visit Statesboro Marketing Manager Justin Samples.

Each cooking team is required to prepare at least four  to five gallons of chili  for the public to  sample, and encouraged  to furnish  accompaniments such as crackers, cheese and sour cream.

To vote in the People’s Choice category, tickets will be available for $1 and all proceeds benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Bulloch County. For more about the cook-off, see

The DSDA credits its 2021-2022 First Friday sponsors for making an event of this size possible. They are Colony Bank, Cinnaholic, Statesboro Properties, McKeithen’s True Value, Via Media, CORE Credit Union, Georgia Power, East Georgia Center for Oral and Facial Surgery, Wells Fargo Advisors, Party Harbor, Tormenta FC, Coca Cola, Statesboro Oral Surgery, McLendon Enterprise, Southern Chiropractic & Wellness Center, Zaxby’s and Morris Bank.

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