LAWRENCEVILLE - Two Gwinnett County high school marching bands will bring the holiday spirit to Atlanta as they perform festive tunes at the annual Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Christmas Parade.
Brookwood and Peachtree Ridge's marching bands will join other award-winning bands, colorful floats, giant balloons, dance groups and Santa Claus on Saturday in the largest holiday parade in the Southeast, which raises money for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, said Saundra Minnich, the parade's chairwoman.
The 1.5-mile route starts at 10:30 a.m. at Peachtree Street at Baker Street and ends on Centennial Olympic Park Drive. About 300,000 people come downtown to watch the parade, and another 2 million watch as it is aired live on WSB-TV, Minnich said.
Both of the Gwinnett County schools were invited to participate because they've got great sound, good color and are very disciplined, Minnich said. Brookwood's band has participated before, but this is Peachtree Ridge's first time marching in this parade.
Peachtree Ridge students put in some time before the Thanksgiving break practicing a jazzy arrangement called "Jingle Bell Jam," but Brookwood's band only had time to practice parade turns. The Snellville school will only have time for one complete rehearsal before the parade, said Laura Moates Stanley, one of the band directors.
"It's difficult because we still have to rehearse our halftime and pregame shows (for the football playoffs)," she said. "The parade is extra."
Brookwood's students have begged to participate in the parade every year, but the event had conflicted with football finals. Since they get to participate this year, the students are excited, Moates Stanley said.
"It's a great community project," she said. "It's good for the kids to be involved, and it's fun for the kids. They get to march around downtown and see other bands."
The students will perform a holiday medley written by the band's other director, she said.
Peachtree Ridge students are also excited about the event, said Heath Jones, the band's director. In addition to "Jingle Bell Jam," Peachtree Ridge's band will play "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," he said.
Peachtree Ridge senior Kyle Pate said the invitation was "unexpected but nice."
"It's kind of an honor to get into the parade," he said.
Because Peachtree Ridge is a relatively new school, founded five years ago, it's still trying to build its reputation, and local performances can help do that, Pate said.
The band has performed in events in Hawaii and Washington, D.C., but the Atlanta performance will make it easier for family and friends to stop by. Students hope to come to watch the parade, said Daniel Kosmala, a Peachtree Ridge senior.
"It's all for a good cause," he said.
SideBar: If you go
What: Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Christmas Parade
When: 10:30 a.m. to noon Saturday
Where: Downtown Atlanta
Cost: Grandstand tickets cost $10 each, but it's free to watch at other places along the parade route
Note: The parade will also air on WSB-TV
For more information: Visit www.choa.org/default.aspx?id=2086