18th Annual Parade of Lights Slated for Sat., Dec. 5 REVERSE Parade on UM Campus Drive from 5-8 pm

The holidays may look a little different this year, but that won’t stop Downtown from being festive! The 18th Annual Parade of Lights is back with a twist on Saturday, Dec. 5, as the kickoff to the holiday season with a day of free and COVID-safe family activities.

The REVERSE Parade of Lights, sponsored by TrailWest Bank and Dick Anderson Construction, gives Missoulians a safe opportunity to connect to the community this holiday season. In a normal year, the day would begin with free or low-cost children’s activities hosted by Downtown businesses and organizations and would culminate with the Parade of Lights and the annual Lighting of the Downtown Holiday Tree on Higgins Avenue. The Parade of Lights committee worked tirelessly to pivot this event into a COVID-safe community experience.

Instead of the children’s activities being hosted at Downtown locations, the activity providers have shifted to offer free and low-cost holiday take-home activity kits. Favorites such as Letters from Santa offered by Noteworthy Paper & Press and Snowflake Take & Make Kits offered by Bathing Beauties Beads are back again and ready for families to enjoy in the comfort of their own home. Each kit will be picked up at the specified location and times which can be found at www.missouladowntown.com/parade-of-lights.

The first ever REVERSE Parade of Lights will take place from 5-8 pm Saturday, Dec. 5 on UM Campus Drive. In a new partnership, the Floats will be stationed along Campus Drive at the University of Montana, and Missoulians will drive through the parade instead of the floats driving by them. The entrance to the REVERSE Parade will be on 6th Street in front of the UM Adams Center. Nearly a dozen floats will be spread out on Campus Drive from 5th Street to Beckwith and Arthur. Goodie bags will be available to the first 100 cars that drive through the parade.

Following CDC and Missoula City-County Health Department (MCCHD) guidelines, the REVERSE Parade has been approved for vehicles only. In order to keep people in small groups and prevent intermingling, people will need to attend the parade in their cars. In order to move forward with the REVERSE Parade, only those inside vehicles will be allowed, and pedestrians and cyclists will be turned away.

“We feel fortunate to have the support we need to actually host a small community celebration,” said Bob McGowan, President of the Missoula Downtown Association Board of Directors. “It’s been a hard year on our community members, and the opportunity to provide some small celebration of the holidays is a good thing. While we’re disappointed we won’t be able to have folks on foot and on bike, we are grateful for the health department’s support and the generosity of our sponsors. Our planning committee has worked some magic to make it all happen!”

The Parade of Lights would not be possible without tremendous support from the University of Montana, Frame of Mind, First Interstate Bank, LumenAd, Cherry Creek Radio, Pepsi-Cola of Missoula, Missoula Current, Parkside Credit Union, Neptune Aviation, Blackfoot and many other community sponsors and countless volunteers.

In addition to the Parade of Lights, the Lighting of the Tree happens every night at 6 pm through Sunday, Dec. 6. The Downtown Holiday Tree is located on North Higgins in front of the Historic Northern Pacific Railroad Depot.

Prior to the Parade, Shop & Dine Small Headquarters will be open from 10am-2pm at the corner of Higgins & Main, and free coupons and gift bags will be available to the public.

For additional information and details, visit https://www.missouladowntown.com/parade-of-lights/ or contact the Downtown Missoula Partnership office via phone (543-4238) or email (info@missouladowntown.com).