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Holiday magic coming to Norfolk with 36th annual Grand Illumination Parade

For the first time since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Grand Illumination Parade will return to Norfolk

NORFOLK, Va. — For the first time since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 36th Annual Grand Illumination Parade will return on November 19 at 7 p.m.

November of 1985 saw the start of the Norfolk tradition that we know very well today. Thousands would bundle up on the 23rd of that month for the first annual Grand Illumination Parade.

The idea to light up the skyline started with the president of the Downtown Norfolk Council at the time. During a visit to Fort Worth, Texas, she watched the city light up during the holidays and wanted to bring the same type of energy to Hampton Roads.

The illumination would eventually incorporate the tallest buildings in Downtown Norfolk, and the parade continued to run smoothly for the following 35 years.

For the last 18 years, Mary Miller, now president of the DNC, has carried the torch, so to speak, for the annual tradition.

“There are families that are now bringing their children that came as children themselves,” said Miller. “The community is really excited about its return.”

In 2020, the parade was canceled for the first time because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But people still found ways to find the holiday spirit by ice skating at MacArthur Center and enjoying holiday lights blanketing downtown streets.

Unfortunately, the parade was canceled once again in 2021. There were too many uncertainties earlier in the year, and it wasn’t worth risking months of planning for the event.

But the parade will make its return Saturday. The festivities will begin at the corner of St. Paul's Boulevard and East Main Street and will march on for two miles, according to a news release.

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