Holiday traditions around North Texas are returning after many events were postponed or adjusted last year due to the pandemic.
In Fort Worth, GM Financial Fort Worth Parade of Lights organizers are preparing to welcome spectators back in person on Sunday. Nina Petty, chairperson for Festivals and Events with Downtown Fort Worth, Inc., said they are expecting a crowd this year after the event went virtual last year.
“We’re so excited to be back in person and expecting a nice crowd of people to come. It’s outside, so we’re hoping it’s safe for everyone,” Petty said. “We’re thinking maybe it’s in the hundred, thousand range, but we’ll just have to wait and see.”
The parade has been a Fort Worth tradition for nearly 40 years. It began with 25 floats and has grown to include more than 100 festive floats, which will march down the 2.2 mile parade route. Civil rights leader and “grandmother of Juneteenth” Opal Lee has been selected as this year’s Grand Marshal.
Petty added, the event typically draws visitors from across North Texas. Mitch Whitten with Visit Fort Worth said over the past year, tourism has been steady in Fort Worth. The industry supports more than 24,000 jobs and they do not expect a slow down during the upcoming holiday season, he said.
“Recovery continues with our hotels. I mean, we’re not to 2019 levels yet. We’ve had some conventions come back, a lot of weekend visitors, a lot coming for attractions like Stockyards, so it just continues to grow steadily back,” Whitten said.
Panther Island Ice also returns this year, reopening at the Coyote Drive-In on Friday. The outdoor ice-skating rink is overseen by the Tarrant Regional Water District.
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“Some differences from last year to this year would be, for instance, you were signing up for your exact date and time as you came in,” spokesperson Matt Oliver said. “So, we knew exactly how many people would be there at that time. We’d be able to space out.”
The rink will operate seven days a week through Jan. 17.
The parade begins at 6 p.m. Sunday. Attendees are encouraged to arrive in downtown early to avoid traffic congestion. Streets and highway ramps, including Spur 280 from Interstate 35, will begin to close as early as 4:00 p.m. For more information on the parade, click here.