Close to 1,000 vehicles and excited spectators took part in this year’s drive-thru Christmas parade in downtown Tyler on Saturday.

The Rotary Clubs of Tyler continued the annual Christmas parade downtown; but this year, it looked a little bit different.

Instead of having the community gather on the streets to watch different businesses, clubs and organizations pass by, the public was invited to drive through downtown, where they could watch participating groups and organizations dressed up, performing and passing out their goodies.

“As Rotarians, we knew we had to do this,” Rotary Parade Chair Ashlea Wilson said. “We’re all about bringing our community together, especially this time of year. And it’s an annual tradition for East Texas.”

Moody Chisholm, president and CEO of UT Health East Texas, said the parade was fun and also kept people safe.

“As part of UT Health East Texas we are trying to keep people safe,” Chisholm said. “We don’t want any more infections of COVID-19, so this is a great way to celebrate the Christmas season and keep the spirit alive.”

The final vehicle was Santa and Mrs. Claus.

“This is wonderful, we love to come to the Tyler parade each year,” Santa Claus told the Tyler Morning Telegraph. “This has been a great way to boost the Christmas spirit. We are really enjoying this.”

Wilson said the parade isn’t just important because it’s a tradition, but it also offered a sense of normalcy.

“There are so many things that are getting canceled around us because of COVID,” Wilson said. “Having the opportunity to be a part of something – even though it is completely distanced, it’s a one-eighty from what we usually do – we have the opportunity to come out and see the middle-school band, see the Tyler band, see the Clydesdales, see Santa Claus, and all the other organizations.”

Cars were encouraged to drive slowly at 5 miles per hour, to be safe and take in every aspect of the display. Over 60 organizations participated in the event, and each had dedicated spaces downtown.

“We just want to make sure the community, as they’re driving through, or walking through that they leave uplifted and hopeful,” Wilson said.

Tyler Mayor Don Warren and others waved to the crowd on top of a firetruck.

The parade was sponsored by the three Tyler Rotary International Clubs: South Tyler Rotary, Sunrise Rotary, and The Rotary Club of Tyler.

Bands from local high schools and middle schools performed as well as dance and cheer teams of all ages. Ballet Folklorico Raices performed as well.

John Anderson and Michel Alfaro contributed to this report.

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Digital Multimedia Journalist

Ben Fenton is a digital multimedia journalist that has worked at the Tyler Morning Telegraph since 2019. He is from Lindale, Texas and holds a Bachelors in Digital Media and a Masters in Communication.