For the past seven decades, members of the Hattiesburg Jaycees have put on their annual Christmas parade for the Hub City community, with residents traditionally staking out their spots hours before the parade begins to cheer for their favorite bands, floats and community organizations.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event will look a bit different this year, with a virtual Shoebox Parade featuring the theme of “Hope for the Holidays, Unity in the Community.”
The parade will allow families, friends and coworkers to be involved in the parade tradition by decorating shoeboxes as floats to be displayed throughout downtown Hattiesburg.
“This is the 70th year of our Christmas parade, and we wanted to keep the beloved Hattiesburg tradition going, while keeping everybody safe and sound,” said Bethanie Miller, chapter president for the Hattiesburg Jaycees. “We had to come up with a way to modify it and make sure that we were keeping COVID guidelines in mind, and the safety of everyone. But it really motivates us to bring the community together each year.”
As part of the Shoebox Parade, participants are encouraged to decorate shoeboxes – or boxes of similar size – in any style desired to resemble parade floats. Entry fees are as follows until Nov. 30:
• Nonprofit Entry: $10; includes two floats.
• Business Entry: $25; includes two floats.
• Nonprofit Entry Plus: $25; includes two floats, in addition to a video commercial or advertisement. Videos, which can be up to one minute long, will be shown on social media, the Hattiesburg Jaycees website and during a virtual parade.
•Business Entry Plus: $50; includes two shoebox floats and the video commercial or advertisement.
The virtual Shoebox Parade will premier at 6 p.m. Dec. 3 via Facebook Live. All shoebox floats will be displayed throughout downtown Hattiesburg for families to visit throughout December.
“We’re hoping to feature a local artist as our backdrop, and give them a little bit of opportunity to get their work out there this year,” Miller said. “We have some emcees that will be going through all of the floats, and that video will be up on our social media.
“The shoeboxes will be displayed downtown for the community to vote on their favorite. We’ll have them in some windows, and we’re still working on getting those windows worked out. But we’ll have a map on our social media of where they’re at.”
Anyone interested in participating can fill out an entry registration form online at www.hattiesburgjaycees.org.
On the site, visitors will find a Pinterest board and videos to get ideas for shoebox decoration.
Participants will be contacted at the end of the month to retrieve their shoeboxes.
“We really are just trying to bring the community together,” Miller said. “I’m actually working on my float with a coworker right now. We just wanted to give an opportunity for everyone to participate.”
“We’re just hoping to bring the community together, and get some people involved in the parade who haven’t been involved in a long time. We want to bring some joy to our community.”