With Friday being Dec. 1, the month isn’t waiting to have a Downtown Statesboro First Friday event, and the Holiday Celebration usually draws one of the year’s largest crowds.
City of Statesboro staff, who organize the Run the Boro 5K, and the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau, which plans the annual Chili Town chili cooking competition, partner with Downtown Statesboro Development Authority, or DSDA, which hosts First Fridays throughout the year. The 5:30-8:00 p.m. celebration is based on East Main Street from the Bulloch County Courthouse to City Hall.
In addition to Santa and Mrs. Claus, who will arrive in the parade, the Holiday Celebration has a special guest emcee, Brian Jordan, the former two-sport professional athlete and current Emmy Award-winning sports analyst. His 14 years as a Major League Baseball outfielder included two stints with the Atlanta Braves, where he was named to one All-Star roster, and he also played three seasons in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons.
Jordan comes to this year’s event in support of the new Statesboro Family YMCA, which is also the designated beneficiary for Run the Boro proceeds.
“He’s kind of kicking off the run, but he’s also going to be here as our master of ceremonies in the parade and we’re kind of incorporating him into everything,” said DSDA Executive Director Allen Muldrew.
Run the Boro starts at 5:30 p.m. from City Hall. Registration is now $25 for an individual runner. Teams of 10 people or more can sign up for $15 per runner, but must complete a paper form. Paper entry forms are available at City Hall, or individuals can register online by first clicking on the “Holiday Celebration” portal on the city website, www.statesboroga.gov.
Meanwhile, the parking lot across the street from City Hall will become Chili Town, populated by cooking teams with their tables and many gallons of chili. In 2016, the first year the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau was in charge of the venerable chili-cooking contest, more than 30 teams participated.
“The SCVB staff and I had so much fun organizing and running Chili Town last year that we knew we wanted to take full sponsorship of this fantastic community event,” SCVD Executive Director Becky Davis said last week. “Participation exceeded our expectations in 2016 and we’re planning for even more teams and tasters this year.”
The number of teams was already approaching last year’s total, but team registrations will still be accepted this week, she said. Registration is free. Stop by the SCVB office in the Visitors Center at 222 South Main St. or read details and click the link on the “Chili Town Cook-Off 2017” event page on Facebook. Cooks are expected to prepare at least three gallons of chili and keep it warm with a crockpot or gas cooker.
Both cash prizes and trophies are being offered in the categories Overall Best Chili, People’s Choice, Best Restaurant Chili and Best-Decorated Booth. The restaurant trophy is one designed for display inside the winning restaurant, Davis said.
Chili Town will open to the public at 5:30 p.m. Admission is free and so are chili samples, but a $1 ticket is required to vote for the People’s Choice award. Proceeds will go the Boys & Girls Club of Bulloch County, Davis said. The SCVB itself is sponsoring the prizes.
The parade will roll at 5:45 from West Main Street, after lining up on Walnut Street by the Gee Da’s Table restaurant. Preferred vehicles are small ones, including dune buggies and Power Wheel-type rideable toys. There is a “Santa’s elves” theme, so dressing as an elf is encouraged.
“Anybody that has a vehicle that is decorated is welcome to join us,” Muldrew said. “You can do a car or a truck, but we don’t do really big floats. We try to make it creative, but not really a lot of work.”
The parade has grown some from past years, he said. But it still has a short route, extending about three blocks along West Main and East Main to Railroad Street.
Santa and Mrs. Claus are scheduled to ride in the parade and then appear at the Averitt Center for the Arts’ Emma Kelly Theater through the evening for photos with children. Free kiddy train rides will be available in the parking lot of Synovus Bank, still known locally as Sea Island Bank, which sponsors the train.
Stage & vendors
Local music and dance groups will be performing on the community stage on the courthouse lawn through the early evening. They include School of Rock beginning at 5:30; Statesboro Youth Strings and Youth Chorale, 6-6:30; a group from Trinity Episcopal Church, 6:30-7:00; dancers from the Helen Redding School of Dance, 7:05-7:25; and Southern Saxophones wrapping up, 7:30-7:45.
About 30 vendors, most offering arts, crafts and gift items, but a few with food, will also be a part of the celebration.