Retired LaGrange News editor Andrea Lovejoy admits it was a little weird seeing Santa Claus in Los Nopales in August.
Little did she know, Santa wasn’t there for “children’s night” at the restaurant or even for her own grandchildren, who were there for a family celebration.
The celebration turned out to be for her, when HYPE Troup and the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce named her grand marshal of this year’s Christmas parade.
The theme, taking from her name, is “Peace, Love and Joy” and kicks off at 6 p.m. Thursday.
“I’m grateful for the parade itself, not just the honor,” Lovejoy said. “Traditions are important. Shared community events are a big part of how we build community.”
Thousands pack downtown LaGrange for the parade each year to either watch or participate.
Lovejoy and her family have been part of that contingent since moving here in the 1970s. She’s mostly been a spectator, for her own children and now her grandchildren. The family will ride with her this year.
“We’ve rarely missed the parade,” she said. “I can mark my life by the parades and the ages and stages of my children and grandchildren.”
A native of Hancock County, Lovejoy earned a degree in social work from Georgia State University. She moved in LaGrange in 1973 when her husband, Bill, took a job with Milliken & Company. The mother of two and grandmother of three, she remains active in church and community organizations. In addition, she is a master gardener.
Along with leading the parade, Lovejoy will join LaGrange Mayor Jeff Lukken in lighting the Christmas tree on Lafayette Plaza.
“It’s a thrilling experience,” to be chosen as grand marshal, Lovejoy said. She’s still shocked by the honor as the days count down to the parade.
“People have come up to me and congratulated me and said nice things about me,” she said. “I have appreciated that.”
The parade this year will once again include a Toys for Tots collection. Donation of a new toy was part of the parade entry fee to the chamber and members of the PFC George Eiland Detachment 1040, Marine Corps League will follow Santa at the end of the parade to collect toys from spectators.