A year after the COVID-19 pandemic brought a pause to many holiday gatherings, the resumption of a pair of downtown Christmas traditions brought a spark of joy missing in 2020.

Friday night’s Downtown Lights Up event brought a robust crowd to Fountain Square Park to watch the lights adorning the park’s trees come on for the first time this season and to shop at local retailers.

That was followed Saturday morning by the Jaycees Christmas Parade, which resumed after a cancellation last year.

“This is definitely an answered prayer to be together and to get to see the Christmas spirit on everybody’s face,” said Melany Iannuzzi, who watched the parade from a spot in front of State Street United Methodist Church.

Iannuzzi, of Bowling Green, and her family went to both celebrations, enjoying the holiday bustle.

Downtown Lights Up attracted Gabe Adkins and his family from Auburn.

Last year, they missed out on Christmas Eve services at their church and other activities canceled due to the pandemic, left with little to do around the house besides watching TV.

This season, Adkins’ family devised an advent calendar that revealed a special holiday-themed activity for the group each day.

“We’re always looking for fun activities for the kids to do,” Adkins said.

Trees in Circus Square Park were decorated with lights as well, and a Mistletoe Market hosted by Soky Marketplace in the Historic Venue on Seventh connected local small merchants with people looking to buy gifts.

A holiday trolley made its debut at Downtown Lights Up, ferrying people along three stops.

Improvements to the roads and sidewalk on College and State streets were completed just in time for the line of floats and marching bands proceeding along both streets during the parade Saturday.

Perhaps no one was more gratified for the return of the Christmas parade than Jaycees Parade chairwoman Mary-John Carmon.

A record number of entries took part in 2019, and while the pandemic forced an interruption, Carmon said the return of the parade Saturday showed that interest remained high.

About 100 entries took part in this year’s parade, Carmon said.

“We knew we wanted to bring this back, it was not a hard decision to make,” Carmon said. “We were bound and determined to have this no matter what.”

Holiday spirits were high for both events, even with unseasonably warm weather that saw temperatures hovering in the 60s.

“If we can’t have snow, this is the next best thing,” Carmon said.

Scott Essler, a member of the board of directors for Down Syndrome of South Central Kentucky, said people the agency serves were thrilled about the return of the parade.

“It was especially difficult last year for our community because they’re very social by nature and love hanging out together,” Essler said before the parade as he stood by the agency’s entry. “They’re just so glad to be out and be involved again.”

– Follow courts reporter Justin Story on Twitter @jstorydailynews or visit bgdailynews.com.

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