From Staff Reports

Santa will once again make his annual visit to Prosper to allow children the opportunity to hand over their gift lists for this year and take some photos. The Prosper Christmas Festival and Parade is set for next Saturday, Dec. 14 at 4 p.m.

This year’s theme is "Light up the Night" and judging will be based on many factors including theme, decoration, costumes and enthusiasm. There will be prize money handed out to the first and second place winners ($300 and $100 respectively). The Rotary Club is asking floats to not feature Santa Claus to avoid confusion with the Rotary-sponsored Santa float in the parade.

The float entry fee is $50. Applications are available at www.prosperrotary.org.

This year’s Prosper Christmas Festival is set not only to light up the night, but also brighten the faces of area children, as organizers are encouraging attendees to bring along a new, unwrapped toy for infants to 15-year-olds, according to Festival chairperson Melissa Randle.

"We’re partnering with Cornerstone on the toy drive, and we’re also collecting non-perishable foods for the food pantry at Bethlehem Place. Our intent is to share the true meaning of the season with those less fortunate. The Prosper Christmas Festival, we think, is the perfect opportunity to give from our bounty," she said.

The collection boxes for toys and food items will be placed near the corner of Broadway Street and Coleman Street, the traditional entryway to the festival. The free festival will start at 4 p.m. and finish with a fireworks display at 8 p.m. on the stretch of Broadway between Coleman and McKinley in the downtown area.

This year’s parade will start at Rucker Elementary School and make its way northward on Craig St., turning west toward downtown on Broadway.

"The new route will mean a whole new way of getting to the festival, since people are accustomed to the old route. We’re encouraging as many people as possible to avoid the parade route by parking at either of our two park and ride locations, Rucker Elementary, 402 S. Craig Rd. and at Reynolds Middle School, 700 N. Coleman," added Randle. The park and ride locations offer free parking and shuttle service to and from the festival throughout the evening.

"We’re looking to make this a magical, festive wonderland of lights. Families will have plenty of photo-taking opportunities," she said. In addition to the lights, a photo booth with whimsical hats and other material will be available for free, wooden cut-outs of Christmas scenes with face-holes will be in place, and North Pole-themed directional signs will point the way. A Polar Express trackless train will transport people from place to place, a slide with real snow, a rink with fake ice and bounce houses will all be free and open.

Entertainment will include gymnasts, dancers, singers, choirs and special guests, and a mascot dance off will highlight the stage area. Mascots from schools and community organizations will compete for audience votes.

Vendors of all kinds will be on hand at the event. Food for sale will include barbecue from Prosper firefighters, Chick fil a sandwiches, fare from the Cotton Gin, creole dishes, hillbilly kettle korn and Kona light stick cotton candy.

"The night will be filled with all sorts of family fun, starting with the parade and going all the way to the fireworks display. We’re very excited about it, and we hope to fill the downtown area will lots of smiles," she said