The stretch of Route 10 that passes through Chester village was far less frequently traveled in 1997 when the Chester Kiwanis Club first proposed closing the roadway for a few hours to accommodate its new Christmas parade.
As the population has grown, so has the popularity of a fun annual event that brings out thousands of county residents living in and around Chester.
“We’re shutting down a major road for three hours on Sunday afternoon and nobody complains – that’s a testament to how the community feels about the parade,” said Bob Innes, chair of the local Kiwanis chapter’s parade committee. “It has been part of the fabric of Chester for a long time.”
Beginning at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10, the 27th annual Chester Kiwanis Christmas Parade will begin at the Chester YMCA and head westbound along Route 10 for about 1½ miles before concluding at Chester Village Green.
Sixty-one different entities have registered to participate in the parade, including local businesses, community groups and elected officials. This year’s grand marshal is retired Chesterfield sheriff’s deputy Donnie Newton, who now serves as chairman of the board of directors for HARP RVA, a nonprofit formed to provide ongoing services to graduates of the county jail’s landmark addiction recovery program.
Santa Claus also is scheduled to make an appearance, riding on a historic fire truck at the rear of the procession.
While homemade floats and personal vehicles are part of the parade, many people opt to walk so they can interact more closely with community members and pass out candy canes to children lining both sides of the route.
“Chester still has that small-town feel and the parade reinforces that,” Innes said. “People really look forward to it.”
There’s certainly nothing small about the preparations necessary to put on an event of this magnitude. Chester Kiwanis members began working on it in early September, filing required applications with the county and state Transportation departments to facilitate the closure of Route 10 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
After coming up with this year’s theme, “Joy to the World,” they sent out emails to past and potential participants in early October informing them that registration would remain open through Dec. 1.
Innes acknowledged the parade wouldn’t be possible without the cooperation of the Virginia Department of Transportation and staff in several county departments, including Transportation, Police and Fire/EMS, as well as the understanding of residents and businesses located along the parade route.
“We appreciate their patience and willingness to be inconvenienced for three hours on a Sunday,” he added. “They understand it’s for the community. It’s bigger than all of us.”