Editor's Note: The second annual All Vehicle Sleigh Ride has been postponed to Dec. 23 due to potential for rain. The time will remain the same as before, with line-up at 4:15 p.m. and the processional beginning at 5:30 p.m.
The neighborhood parade that started as a solution to salvaging Christmas during the pandemic in 2020 has turned into an annual tradition for the East Hill community.
This year, the second annual All Vehicle East Hill Sleigh Ride will take place Dec. 18.
After many traditional Christmas festivities were canceled last year due to COVID-19, event organizer Ryan Wiggins set out to find a way to celebrate that was suitable for social distancing.
A vehicle procession that drove around the neighborhood with Christmas lights on display was a way to bring the holiday spirit to people who were forced to stay inside. Wiggins encouraged her neighbors with vehicles of all varieties — golf carts, trailered boats, wagons, bikes, four-wheelers — to deck them out in holiday garlands, strings of lights, tinsel and bows.
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Wiggins said she was surprised to see the vehicles and drivers decorated head to toe and witnessed people of all ages jumping in delight when the vehicles passed by.
"I was really taken aback by how many people really got into it last year," Wiggins said. "The thing that was most impressive was the joy that the people had."
Wiggins said she marketed the vehicle procession as a "sleigh ride" since no parade throw-outs were allowed.
Realizing everyone had so much fun last year, she said, it only seemed fitting to bring back the event for a second year and create a new tradition. The event appears to also have grown in popularity since its inaugural year, with about 200 people committing to attending this year's event on its Facebook page and another 600 saying they are interested.
"We're really looking forward to it this year, it's going to be a much bigger event," Wiggins said. "It was my favorite thing that happened last year. It is something silly, innocent and fun, family-friendly. ... It brought smiles to a lot of people's faces."
Staying true to the spirit of Christmas, Wiggins said 100% of the proceeds from a GoFundMe page created for the event will go to the Gulf Coast Kid's House to help the organization support children who have been abused.
In 2020, the event raised $900, but this year, the goal is set at $2,500. The community is off to a good start, Wiggins said, with more than $2,000 already raised in the weeks leading up to the event.
The line-up for this year's parade will start at the Bayview Senior Citizens Center at 2000 E. Lloyd St. Participants should start lining up at 4:15 p.m. and the sleigh ride itself will begin at 5:30 p.m.
Anyone is welcome to drive their vehicle in the parade as long as it's decorated and can rev up to 5 mph. Walkers and cyclists also are permitted, if they are dressed up for Christmas.
The length of the parade will vary depending on how many vehicles show up to participate but Wiggins anticipates it will take about an hour to complete the course. Those watching from their homes should expect about 10 to 15 minutes for the parade to pass by.
Those outside of the East Hill community are welcome to come watch as well, with the opportunity to view the parade from any of the parks included along the route or on any of the cross streets where roads intersect.
Law enforcement will be present at the event to ensure safety.
Wiggins asked that those who attend not block any of the driveways or park anywhere that would block the route. Any questions can be directed to the event's Facebook page.
This article originally appeared on Pensacola News Journal: East Hill hosts All Vehicle Sleigh Ride Christmas parade for second year