RICHMOND, Va. — The streets of Richmond will be filled with Christmas cheer on Saturday morning during Dominion Energy’s Christmas Parade.
Robert Kelly Jr., the president of Richmond Parade Inc., said the best time to get to the parade on Saturday will be around 9 a.m. in order to get a good spot.
Kelly, a retiree, has the parade route etched in his memory as he’s been volunteering with the parade the 39 years that it has been held. He is one of many volunteers that help keep the Christmas parade alive, a Richmond tradition that has stood the test of time.
“So back in 1984, 1985, a gentleman by the name of Jeff Marx, who was with the Richmond Jaycees, came before the Board of Directors of Richmond. He said I want to bring the Christmas parade back to Richmond,” Kelly said.
The parade was revived in 1985 after a 13-year hiatus.
“Then in 1992, the wonderful Ukrop’s supermarket, Bobby, and Jim Ukrop’s came to us and said we want to sponsor the parade. And so, for 17 years, we had the benefit and the joy of working with Ukrop’s Supermarket folks,” Kelly said.
2009 brought another challenge for parade organizers when Ukrops stopped being a sponsor of the parade.
“Well, God bless Dominion Energy, the company I worked for, they came in and Dominion Energy said, Richmond is our corporate headquarters; we need to keep this parade going,” Kelly said.
For 39 continuous years, Dominion Energy has remained the title sponsor. Over the years, more sponsors have been added, attracting some major players.
“In 1990, Paul Simon wanted to create a video on his new album. Paul Simon brought Steve Martin and Chevy Chase and himself into the town. They built a special float and they actually created a video on Broad Street in our parade,” Kelly said.
Simon’s music video “Proof” incorporated the City of Richmond and opened the door for more participants and sponsors.
“We were probably the largest Christmas parade between Atlanta and Philly. So, we did in my mind a fantastic job in giving our community a first-class event,” Kelly said.
Kelly also credits the success of the parade to CBS 6 and its live broadcast.
“But what channel six brings to our parade is a level of professionalism, and creativity, that is second to none. And I have to give Dominion Energy, a lot of credit when they stepped up and became a sponsor,” Kelly said.
The theme for this year’s parade is A Very RVA Christmas and will feature 93 units, including Nutsy and Nutasha of the Richmond Flying Squirrels as Grand Marshalls. For Kelly, having the parade come all together is the icing on the cake.
“I do this parade for one reason, and that’s to walk down that parade route on the day, and to see all the smiling faces of the families and children. And that’s my paycheck. And there’s absolutely no reason for me as a volunteer to quit doing it until I’m unable to physically do it anymore.”