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BuzzHAWTHORNE – People attending Hawthorne’s Christmas Festival and Parade on Saturday can expect homemade food, a tree lighting and some giant candy canes. In fact, there has been a competition between float builders as to who can make the largest candy cane of all.

Gilbert Randall, the parade coordinator, said there has been a fierce contest to make the largest of the iconic holiday peppermint treats.

“These people are trying to get the biggest and best-looking candy cane in town,” he said. “They are trying to make it humongous.”

The theme of the 29th annual festival is “A Candyland Christmas.” Randall said the floats in the parade are trying to mix the sweetness of the candies with religious figures to create a holiday atmosphere.

He said about 25 floats have registered so far to be in the parade. Anyone who wishes to get involved may contact the Chamber of Commerce or just come to the festivities to support the city.

“Come out and have a good old country street parade with your friends and neighbors,” he said.

Booths will be open for visitors at 11 a.m. The parade begins at 3 p.m. and travels from the Hawthorne Historical Museum and Cultural Center to the First Baptist Church, Randall said.

Mr. and Mrs. Claus will overlook the festivities, while children can enjoy pony rides and other youth activities. The sheriff and fire departments will make an appearance in the parade as guests enjoy barbecued food. There will a stage set up to showcase local musicians, as well as ballerinas and a karate class.

The parade staff members are trying to display as much local talent as possible, he said.

“We have always tried to incorporate every age group, from toddler to senior citizen, in our festival activities,” he said. “That’s been our main goal each year.”

Donna Boles, the director of the parade, said there are currently 33 vendors signed up to add to the Christmas celebration. This will be her fifth year planning the event.

“It is amazing. When it is time for the parade, the whole street is lined with people,” she said. “They all flock to it. They just love it.”

The festival will also give back to a few lucky people in this harsh economic time by raffling off ten $50 Visa cards. She said she hopes people will come out to support the vendors and local economy.

Boles, who came up with this year’s theme of a Candyland Christmas, said about 50 to 75 people will be participating in the parade this year.

She also said she is looking forward to having a good time with her neighbors.

“My favorite part is just seeing everyone,” she said. “It’s like a big homecoming.”

Randall said he believes the parade can bring the community together during the holiday season.

“It causes people not to look at the backgrounds of one another, the color of one’s skin or their choices in religion,” he said. “We all pull together to put on this event.”