Stanford holiday parade to be filmed for ‘Christmas in Kentucky’ network TV special

Matt Goins

Stanford is gearing up for a big year for its Christmas parade, which is Saturday.

This is the event’s 40th anniversary, and this year, the Great American Family network plans to feature the parade in a “Christmas in Kentucky” holiday special, airing later this month.

“This year’s parade will feature more than twenty festive floats, fire trucks and police vehicles, youth sports teams of all ages, and more than 50 classic cars,” a Facebook event page for the parade stated.

Parade organizers encouraged businesses to decorate their windows in keeping with the “Christmas in Kentucky” theme, and the Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce said in a Facebook post that a bus would be available to shuttle parade-goers from the high school to downtown.

The parade down Main Street begins at 6 p.m. Dec. 3.

The guest of honor is actress Jen Lilley, best known for her recurring role as Theresa Donovan on “Days of Our Lives” and Maxie Jones on “General Hospital.” Lilley has starred in a number of Hallmark Channel movies and recently agreed to team up with GAC Media.

Her latest Great American Family Christmas movie, “B&B Merry,” premieres Sunday, and her co-star, Jesse Hutch, is scheduled to join her at the parade in Stanford.

Great American Family has not announced an air date for the “Christmas in Kentucky” special, but a spokesperson said Lilley will host it.

“Christmas traditions in small towns across America are an essential part of our country’s fabric,” GAC Media President and CEO Bill Abbott said in a news release about its plans to have a presence at Stanford’s parade. “We are so grateful to the town of Stanford for welcoming Great American Family and Jen Lilley to be a part of their historic parade, and we look forward to celebrating the joy and magic of Christmas in Kentucky together with our local partners and the people of Lincoln County.”

“Our annual Christmas parade has always been a special event for our town and we know this year will be even better,” Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Andrea Miller said in the release. “It is heartening to see that these organizations and stars like Jen Lilley appreciate the unique values small towns like Stanford contribute to our society as a whole.”

With Abbott at the helm, the GAC Family channel has recently been rebranded as Great American Family and is rivaling the Hallmark Channel for sentimental Christmas programming.

Abbott left a position at Hallmark’s parent company, Crown Media, in early 2020, shortly after a holiday season in which controversy erupted over Hallmark Channel’s decision to pull ads featuring same-sex couples, a move the network later apologized for. During the same time period, the network was facing criticism about a lack of diversity.

Actress Candace Cameron Bure has also made the switch to Great American Family, and her statement about “traditional marriage” in a recent Wall Street Journal Magazine article about the network generated another firestorm of media attention, as a number of celebrities responded.

Great American Family says it aims to be “America’s premiere destination for quality family-friendly programming, including original holiday movies, rom-coms and fan-favorite series that celebrate faith, family and country.”

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