Prepare to see Atlantic City sparkle like never before this winter.
Six-foot candy canes will adorn each light post on Atlantic Avenue; parks and streets that haven’t been decorated in decades, or ever, will twinkle; and a 35-foot-tall Christmas tree with 3,000 lights will sparkle in the South Inlet.
Of course, no winter celebration would be complete without Santa Claus. Kris Kringle will once again see a grand entrance in the resort with the revival of the city’s holiday parade, which hasn’t been seen for at least three years.
Plans to transform Atlantic City into a festive holiday showcase stem from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, which recently committed to spending an unprecedented $595,000 on holiday decorations. Officials hope that decking the halls of the city will encourage tourists to consider a trip during the traditionally slow winter months and contribute to a sense of community in the neighborhoods.
The centerpiece of the new decorations will be a large Christmas tree donated by The Walk outlets. The tree will tower several stories perched atop a platform at Maine and Atlantic avenues, said Don Guardian, executive director of CRDA’s Special Improvement Division. That site might conjure up memories of the decorating efforts of Christmases past.
“After World War II, from about 1945 to 1960, the image people will remember is standing somewhere on Atlantic Avenue, looking up toward Brigantine and seeing this ginormous Christmas tree,” Guardian said. “Now you’re going to have a Christmas tree there that will be visible all the way from the (Atlantic City) Expressway. We want it to be a holiday wonderland, and we hope that kids today will have that same twinkle in their eye when they see it.”
To mark the renewed enthusiasm surrounding this year’s holiday season, the resort will also bring back its holiday parade Dec. 1. The parade was once a massive undertaking featuring dozens of floats, beauty queens, antique cars and costumed characters such as the Smurfs and Big Bird trotting down Atlantic Avenue.
A photo of the 1947 Christmas parade hangs in Guardian’s office, a reminder of the sense of community the parade brings, he said. The parade had a consistent presence in the resort through the ’70s. It was brought back after an eight-year hiatus in 1982.
The city pulled funding a few years later after discovering that Miss Atlantic City, a parade centerpiece, was actually from Ventnor, and a parade organization sued. The parade has seen several revivals through recent years, but its most grandiose presence came before 1990, Guardian said.
“With the Tourism District, we want to make sure to have activities during the off-season. We also wanted to make sure we did something that brings the Tourism District and the community together,” said Ali Reynolds, CRDA’s director of community development partnerships. “It was so well-received in the years it was done that we wanted to bring it back in a big way.”
The last time the city purchased any holiday lighting was in the mid-1990s, Guardian said. Those products lasted for about five to seven years before Main Street Atlantic City, along with what was then the Special Improvement District, now a CRDA division, got involved and purchased shooting star lights for the lamp posts on Atlantic Avenue. However, until this year, organizations didn’t have the budget to focus on the type of all-out displays now planned for the city.
CRDA has issued a request for proposals for the design, purchase and installation of the displays, which should begin by Nov. 23. The authority plans to own, rather than rent, the majority of the decorations so they can be used in future years and already has plans to add on to the display, officials said. CRDA will also help the city decorate for its annual Winter Wonderland event for children at the Atlantic City Convention Center.
This year, expect to see two 6-foot candy canes on the light poles at each street on Atlantic Avenue. Martin Luther King Boulevard, which has never before been decorated, will be adorned with 42 shooting stars and holiday-themed banners.
New bus shelters, which started being installed Monday, will feature 52 panels, each with a holiday greeting. Revel has also committed to creating a “winter wonderland” along Connecticut Avenue, the main path leading to the casino, but details have not yet been released, CRDA officials said.
Center City Park, located at North Carolina and Atlantic avenues, will also be transformed. Every tree in the park will be lit with white lights, the gazebo will be decorated, and an 8-foot-tall “Seasons Greetings” sign will be displayed.
“We’re really going hog wild with this particular park,” Guardian said. “It’s one of the busiest locations in the city, with several buses stopping there and the greatest amount of residents and workers at this particular location.”
In the future, Boardwalk entrances will be decorated, and plans for decorating Absecon Lighthouse on Rhode Island Avenue have been explored.
Between the parade, decorations and other planned promotions, officials said the resort is on track for one of its most coordinated holiday efforts in recent years. The Atlantic City Alliance will change its free Duality 3-D light show outside Boardwalk Hall to a winter theme. The alliance’s advertising campaign will also see a $400,000 advertising push with Atlantic City shopping messages appearing on 4,000 New York City taxis and new advertisements in malls and on social media outlets.
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Atlantic City Holiday Parade
What: Expect a large lineup of floats, local marching bands, civic groups, and an appearance by Santa Claus
When: Noon, Saturday, Dec. 1
Parade route: Travels south on Atlantic Avenue beginning at Maine and Atlantic avenues and ending at Michigan and Baltic avenues at The Walk outlets.
Parking: Arrive between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. on the day of the parade and park for free at The Wave parking garage at Mississippi and Fairmount avenues.
To get involved: Contact parade coordinator Jasmine Rivera in the CRDA’s Special Improvement Division at 344-8338.