JOHNSTOWN -After 10 years, the privately run Classic Image Johnstown Holiday Parade set for 7 p.m. Friday downtown is expected to be more popular than ever with the public.
It also could be the last one, due to dwindling public donations.
"Honestly, this is a bad [donations] year," chief parade organizer Karen Coppola said last week. "We have not seen much for donations. It could be our last year."
Santa makes his first appearance of the season during last year’s Classic Image Johnstown Holiday Parade on Main Street in the city Nov. 18.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
Coppola said this year's 10th annual, five-division holiday parade, which does not receive any city funding, is still set for Friday. She said its theme this year is "Charlie Brown & Friends and Winter Wonderland."
Hundreds of people annually line West and East Main streets to take in the parade on a usually crisp and cold Friday night in November. The parade is typically popular with children, who receive candy tossed from parade participants and floats. Coppola said the parade will again start in the Madison Avenue area, travel up Melcher Street to Main Street and head to an ending point at Chase Street.
"It's grown tremendously," Coppola said. "It could be our biggest parade yet. We do get quite a big [spectator] response."
She said 5,000 bags of candy are distributed to kids along the parade route.
The parade is overall sponsored corporately by The Daily Gazette, and each division has its own sponsor.
"This year, we'll be collecting for Hurricane Sandy," Coppola said.
She said paradegoers can bring dry food goods to donate. A truck, followed by other parade participants along the route, will collect the items.
Coppola said the main problem for the parade is the donated money for the event is just not coming in anymore. She hopes more people will get in the holiday spirit with their checkbooks. She said she and her husband have had to donate their own money to keep it going, and may end up doing so again this year.
"What we do is, the money we raise helps [cover] the cost of the parade," Coppola said.
Any money left over has been used as a fundraiser for school districts in Fulton County and nursing homes in the county, she said. The parade organizers try to raise at least $2,000 annually, but usually have to dip into their own private accounts, she said.
Coppola said although the parade is only a few days away, the public and businesses can still send donation checks to: Classic Image Johnstown Holiday Parade, P.O. Box 245, Johnstown, 12095. The public can also drop off checks to her business - Belle Fiori, 58 E. Main St., Johnstown.
Groups or individuals who still want to participate in the parade can do so by calling Coppola at 424-1796.
Mayor Sarah Slingerland said Friday the city has two parade-related accounts in the city budget. She said one is a $2,000 account dedicated to city-run "governmental" parades, such as the city's annual Memorial Day Parade, which was discontinued in 2012. She thinks it may be held again next year.
But Slingerland said a separate account for $3,000 does "support" any extra police, fire and public works staffing needed for any parades in the city. Still, she said the holiday parade should remain a private one and not be directly funded by the city.
"I think it would be more appropriate if a business group picked it up," the mayor said.
Coppola said participants in the holiday parade will again be treated to free food and refreshments after the event at the Johnstown Moose Club.
She noted some businesses also will be open during the parade, and food and hot drinks will be sold by vendors in the downtown Sir William Johnson Park.
Coppola said the holiday parade is unusual and unique for this immediate area, although there is a larger one in downtown Schenectady after Thanksgiving.
"We don't have anything [else] like it up here," she said.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.