KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Kalamazoo welcomed the festive season Saturday with its annual holiday parade.

The Maple Hill Holiday Parade — a tradition that dates back to 1962 — started at 11 a.m. in downtown Kalamazoo and lasted about an hour and a half.

Crowds lined up to watch Kalamazoo's holiday parade. (Nov. 18, 2023)
Crowds lined up to watch Kalamazoo’s holiday parade. (Nov. 18, 2023)

There were around 100 units in the lineup, which featured balloons, 10 marching bands from across the area and many festive floats. The parade culminated in an appearance from Santa and Mrs. Claus.

“The holiday parade is so important to Kalamazoo,” parade organizer Abby VandenBerg said. “Any good community starts with a thriving downtown, and this is such a great example of it with a free event for families, the downtown shops, charity — it all comes together in this parade just to show exactly how great Kalamazoo is.”

Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes, which has been providing food countywide for 41 years, has been the parade’s charity partner for over a decade.

“We’re currently experiencing very high service numbers, about 750 a day that we are serving,” said Greta Faworski, associate director for Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes. “A lot of people are really struggling with high inflation and just in general, everything is coming to a halt with the holidays. And people are just really finding at the end of the month, they don’t have enough to cover all their basic needs.”

At the parade, volunteers with decorated buckets collected donations for Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes.

“With this parade, we are able to not only showcase how many great organizations we have in our community, but also raise awareness that maybe some other individuals are not having the best holiday season ever,” Faworski said. “And so the combination of celebrating the season, celebrating the community and asking people to give to those who need it — it really is a special time.”

— News 8’s Elena Cousino contributed to this report.