The 44th annual El Dorado Christmas Parade is set to roll at 7 p.m. today with nearly 125 entries.
The theme for the 2023 parade, which is presented by the El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce and co-title sponsor Cole's Jewelers, is "Oh, What Fun It is To ..." -- a theme that was adopted by several local groups for the city's annual holiday advertising and promotion campaign.
The deadline to enter the parade was Nov. 21 but as is customary each year, a few entrants trickled in after the deadline.
"I did my best to accommodate everyone who walked in the door and I didn't really turn anyone away," said Karen Hicks, vice president of membership and events for the chamber of commerce.
"Some requests I couldn't make happen once we submitted the final list to KTVE but a majority of the requests were met," Hicks added.
The parade will be livestreamed on the KTVE/MyArkLaMiss website and streamed again on Christmas morning.
Hicks said a total of 125 entrants, including horses, registered to participate in the parade this year.
With the "Oh, What Fun It is To ..." theme, the public is left to fill in the blank with their favorite holiday memories and traditions.
Parade entrants were given the same leeway in decorating their floats.
The parade route will begin at the intersection of North West Avenue and 18th Street and will proceed south on West Avenue, east on Main Street and north on Jefferson Avenue to Peach Street before disbanding.
Hicks issued a reminder that parallel parking spaces will be blocked on Main Street between West and Jefferson avenues and on Washington and Jefferson avenues between Main and Elm streets.
"Pull-in parking to the (Union County Courthouse) will still be available but parallel parking will be blocked," she said.
Hicks said KTVE/MyArkLaMiss parade commentators and the parade judges will set up in the parking lot of KTVE's office, 715 N. West Ave.
Parade entrants who intend to play music along the parade route are asked to lower the volume as they near the judges' stand.
Hicks noted that, per a partnership between Main Street El Dorado and Noalmark Broadcasting, Noalmark has agreed to waive radio ads and play "Christmas music all the time" on the 106.5 FM radio station throughout the holiday season.
The chamber is encouraging parade entrants who play holiday music to tune their radios to 106.5 to create a uniform sound during the parade.
The El Dorado Christmas Parade is believed to be the largest Christmas Parade in South Arkansas.
By Thursday afternoon, spectators had already begun staking out their spots along the parade route -- another annual tradition for the Christmas parade.
Hicks said she reviewed Placer.ai data to track attendance for the parade in 2022.
Last June, the El Dorado Advertising and Promotion Commission approved a $10,000 funding request from Main Street El Dorado to cover a one-year contract for the Placer software program, which uses cellular phone data to count the number of people who gather within a designated radius.
Placer sets up a geofence, which uses GPS or radio-frequency identification (RFID) to set up a virtual perimeter of a geographic area and enable the software to trigger a response when a mobile device enters or leaves a particular area.
MSE is using the software for foot-traffic counts and analysis to better track the number of attendees for its events and visitors to the city's historic downtown, which largely makes up the MSE footprint.
Other groups, including the chamber of commerce, have worked with MSE to use the software, which can backtrack such data to 2017.
According to Placer data, nearly 7,000 smartphones were counted for the 2022 El Dorado Christmas parade.
"We had 6,700 people with phones on the parade route last year," said Hicks.
For more information about the parade, call the chamber of commerce at 870-863-6113. Also, visit www.goeldorado.com or the chamber's Facebook page.