CANTON, Mo. -- The Christmas season in Canton will kick into high gear this week with the first in a series of holiday events.
The Canton Main Street Association will host several activities Thursday, highlighted by the eighth annual Parade of Lights starting at 6 p.m.
"It's now a tradition in Canton," said Anne Fryer, one of the parade's organizers. "It's just bringing together a sense of community."
The nighttime parade will feature floats equipped with vivid electronic decorations. Santa Claus will ride in the parade atop the Canton Fire Department's ladder truck.
Groups can still sign up for the parade by emailing Fryer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The parade will begin at the corner of Second and Lewis streets and zig-zag through downtown Canton before ending at Central Park.
Afterward, Santa will greet children at the Lewis Street Playhouse.
Several other holiday-related activities are planned for Thursday in Canton.
Festivities begin at 4 p.m. when the Canton Public Library offers 90 minutes of crafts, games, story time, a visit with Santa and Christmas snacks.
At 5 p.m., the Main Street Association will host a kick-off event in Central Park, which has been decorated for the holidays. The Canton High School Key Club recently adorned a big tree that will be the focus of a tree-lighting ceremony.
The Central Park event also will feature a bonfire with free hotdogs, cocoa and caroling.
"We'll have musicians from Culver-Stockton College, and we'll have carolers from the Canton Tiger Choir," Fryer said.
At 5:30, the Lewis Street Playhouse will show a short Disney movie geared for kids, "Prep and Landing."
Also at 5:30, a group of local musicians will begin playing a Christmas jazz jam session at the Fourth Street Warehouse. The jam session will pause during the parade and resume afterward.
Fryer said the theme for the parade will be National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, inspired by the movie of that name. The movie will be shown several times in December at the Lewis Street Playhouse, sponsored by the Bank of Monticello. Showings are slated for 7 p.m. Dec. 8, 9 and 16 and 2 p.m. Dec. 17.
In conjunction with the Dec. 8 presentation, the Main Street Association will host a Cousin Eddie contest based on a central character from the National Lampoon movie series. Sign-up for the contest begins at 6:30, and the contest starts at 6:45. The sign-up fee is $10. The winner will receive one-half of all collected fees.
The Main Street Association also will sponsor a Christmas decorating contest for Canton homes and businesses during December. Nominations will be accepted until Dec. 18, and judging will take place Dec. 22. Cash prizes will be awarded.
Entry forms for the decorating contest are available at Canton City Hall, the Golden Ruler, the Bank of Monticello's Canton branch or online at facebook.com/cantonmainstreetassociation/.