New Canton Christmas Parade route: what you need to know before going

Nov. 23—The Canton Christmas Parade will have a new route and traffic pattern this year, one that town officials hope will finally be the winning formula for the parade happening at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1.

Canton has tweaked the parade route a few times in recent years. But balancing pedestrian safety, ingress and egress of floats, a compact parade route for spectators and a less-chaotic finish line has always been a challenge.

After going back to the drawing board ahead of this year's Christmas parade, Canton Police Chief Scott Sluder believes they've finally nailed it.

The big change this year: the parade route will not make a complete loop along Park Street back to the start of the parade.

Instead, the parade will terminate after rounding the corner of Main Street onto Depot. Meanwhile, the one-way portion of Park Street through downtown will be dedicated as an unloading zone for paraders to disembark — creating a traffic-free zone for kids who dance or march in the parade to reconnect with their parents.

"So this will be our new stanarad parade route, once and for all?" asked Canton Mayor Zeb Smathers, after Sluder shared a map of the route at a town board meeting.

"I believe this route is going to be a route we can use for a long time to come," Sluder replied. "We made the best laid plan we can, but we may have to sit down and tweak things a little bit after looking a 'what did we do right and what did we do wrong.'"

One of Sluder's chief concerns was the exodus of parade viewers along the first part of the route, while the parade was still passing by en route back to the starting line.

"It created a lot of issues," Sluder said. "After the parade had passed, they were pulling out, but the parade was coming right back through there. So it created a danger."

It will also save parade participants from trekking back up the hill to the start at Blackwell Drive.

"That's a long haul, especially when you got itty bit legs trying to walk all of that," Sluder said. "It also allows us to get traffic back to flowing a little bit earlier."

Ending the parade before rounding the corner onto Park Street will accomplish another goal of preventing gaps in the parade from entries getting spread out.

"A lot of our gaps build up when we make the loop," Smathers noted.

Here's the down and dirty on this year's route. For a map, go to cantonnc.com or themountaineer.com and click on this story.

—Street closures: All cars must be removed from Main St. by 4:30 p.m. Blackwell Drive will be closed to traffic starting at 4:30 p.m. for parade entries to begin lining up. Traffic will resume normal flow on Blackwell Drive when the last float turns onto New Clyde Highway.

The one-way portion of Park Street will be closed to serve as the parade unloading zone, along with the side-streets of Cabe, Depot, Adams and in front of Champion Credit Union.

—Route: Begins at Blackwell Drive and New Clyde Highway follows Park Street into downtown then continues along Main Street and rounds the corner on Depot Street, where the parade route officially ends. Two police vehicles will follow the parade and normal traffic flow will be behind them. Normal traffic flow will resume on Park Street when the last float turns onto Short Main towards Depot Street.

—Parade participants: The parade will line up on Blackwell Drive, with all traffic entering from the Champion Drive side. Parade floats and participants will disembark on Depot and Adams Street, allowing safe pickup of participants in parking lots along Park Street.