Thousands enjoy Appleton’s night-time Christmas parade tradition

(WBAY file)
(WBAY file)

APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) – Each year Appleton’s Christmas parade draws a huge crowd downtown, enjoying the sights and sounds of the holiday season on every corner of College Avenue.

The decades-old event is a holiday tradition for thousands of families across our area. The weather cooperated for the large crowd, with temperatures above freezing at the start of the parade and only a hint of the rain and snowflakes to come later Tuesday night.

About 80,000 people are expected were expected to line College Avenue. Some were standing in place to reserve their spot since early in the afternoon.

The mood was festive. The parade, which includes more than 70 floats and marching bands from across Northeast Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, is often billed as the largest night-time Christmas parade in the upper Midwest.

“It brings the Christmas spirit to life. It’s the start of the Christmas for Appleton and the area. I think this is the start of it,” said Debbie Peterson of Hortonville.

Katie Milbach of Kimberly added, “You can tell all of the hard work that everybody puts into building floats, and it’s a really nice time with a whole bunch of people in the community, too.”

Many come from out of town to enjoy it.

“It puts me in a happy mood, a great mood to get me all excited for the year, and I’m looking forward to seeing Santa at the end,” Angela Gordon of Navarino said.

Of course you can always expect to see Santa waving near the tail end of the lineup, which started 46 years ago to kick off the holiday shopping season in downtown Appleton.

“It’s a family event. You can see if you look down the avenue there’s chairs, there’s blankets out, everybody is sitting there. They’re all anticipating it. The nighttime parade, the bright lights on those floats, it’s just something you’ve got to see,” parade chairman Greg Otis said.


The route is just over a half mile on College Avenue, heading east from State Street to Drew Street.

“One of the things everybody asks me is, where do they park? And to tell you truthfully, my job is to build it, they will come, and they park,” Otis said.