By Andrea McCann
WASHINGTON — With clear skies expected this weekend, Santa should have no trouble finding Washington for the annual Christmas parade, which will begin at 3 p.m. Sunday.
This year’s parade theme is “A Blessed Daviess County Christmas.” The route will be the same as in past years, starting at Seventh Street by the high school, going west on Main to Meridian, then north on Meridian, east on VanTrees, and back to the high school. Line-up for parade entries will be at 2 p.m. at the corner of East Main Street and heading north on S.E. Seventh Street. There’s no entry fee to be in the parade, and groups and individuals can participate by calling 254-5575.
After being escorted into town by the parade entries, Santa will greet children at the Meredith Plaza gazebo to hear their Christmas wish lists and distribute candy.
Also immediately following the Christmas parade, the “Celebrity Deathmatch Chili Cook-off” will heat up at Powerhouse, 709 E. Main St. It’s the second year for the competition, which is sponsored by PowerHouse and pits local celebrities against each other to see who can whip up the best batch of chili. The event is open to the public, and cook-off winners will be selected strictly by attendee votes; there will be no professional judges.
This year’s cook-off will feature the following matchups: Daviess County Sheriff Jerry Harbstreit and Washington Police Chief Mike Healy in “The Showdown”; Pastors Sean Terry and Matt Merold in a “Turning the Other Cheek” challenge; Heartland OB/GYN vs. Ed Lee Mortuary in a “Cradle to Grave” contest; the Washington Times Herald and DLC Media combat in “An Eye for an Ear”; Two Brothers Restaurant dueling Reid’s Deli in “No Blood No Fowl Club Sandwich”; and Mi Pueblo and Hacienda El Asadero in “Un Guerra Civil (a civil war).”
“There will be head-to-head matchups, and people will vote for one in each,” said PowerHouse Director Nathaniel Rainey. “And there will be a blank to put their overall favorite.”
He said winners will be announced that day after customers dwindle — probably around 5:30 p.m. Last year’s overall winner was Sheriff Harbstreit.
The chili cook-off is designed to be a community event and will include musical entertainment, this year by Joe Howard and Jenna Clouse.
Cost is $5 at the door for adults, who will get a voting ballot. Children under 12 get in free. Extra ballots will be available for $1, Rainey said, if people want to vote more than once. The entry fee also includes a drink; pie slices will be available for $1.
PowerHouse is a local nonprofit organization that provides a safe after-school environment where teens can study, socialize and participate in activities. Proceeds from the cook-off will go to the activity fund, which directly supports youth activities.
To top off the day of holiday festivities, families can check out the Christmas lights illuminating Eastside Park. The lights were fired up on Thanksgiving Eve and will burn through Jan. 1. Parks Superintendent Mike McLemore said the Christmas lights will be on daily from 5 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. the next day. The park will still close at 11 p.m., but he said some of the lights can be seen from 21st Street and Memorial Avenue.
“We have a lot of lighted displays as well as lights in all the trees,” McLemore said, adding there are gingerbread cartoon characters, a manger scene and many other Christmas-themed displays that will interest children.
“I think we have in excess of 80,000 lights this year. We’re still adding lights right now.”
People cruising through the park to enjoy the displays can do so to the accompaniment of Christmas music by tuning into 87.9 FM, he added.
On Dec. 13 and Dec. 20 Eastside Park will be host to Christmas in the Park. From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. both days there will be free carriage rides through the park, and the city train will be decorated with lights and will be running.
“People will be able to take a carriage ride to see the lights,” McLemore said.
In addition, there will be free hot chocolate and cookies inside the Community Building, where Santa will be greeting children who can sit on his lap and get a free candy cane.
“It won’t cost a penny,” McLemore said.