news harrisonburg wonderfest festival parade make downtown worthy of a hallmark movie
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Harrisonburg: Wonderfest festival, parade make downtown worthy of a Hallmark movie

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The community is invited to celebrate the magic of the holidays this Saturday, Dec. 3, with a full day of free festive fun for the entire family in Harrisonburg. The downtown setting is worthy of a Hallmark holiday special with horse carriage rides, photos with Santa, a gingerbread house competition, live nativities and more.

Saturday’s festivities in downtown begin with Winter Wonderfest, a free holiday festival for all ages presented by Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance.

The community can enjoy activities and entertainment from noon to 6 p.m. including horse and carriage rides, live music performances, photos with Santa, gingerbread house competition, live nativities, the Arc of Harrisonburg-Rockingham’s Santa Run, Walk ‘N Roll, holiday markets, Grinch-themed activities and BINGO game, holiday shopping and more.

“Winter Wonderfest is like Downtown Harrisonburg’s real-life Hallmark movie,” HDR Executive Director Andrea Dono said. “It’s the best day to get your holiday shopping done, enjoy a relaxed meal with family or friends, take in the festivities and just enjoy the spirit of the season. Combining Wonderfest with the holiday parade will make the entire day special for all.”

The day also features ticketed events including HDR’s sold out Cookie Tour. Ticketholders will be able to visit a dozen stops and collect a variety of cookies from local bakeries.

Tickets for the new spinoff of the Cookie Tour for dogs, called Max’s Holiday Treat Heist, are still available on Eventbrite. This exclusive tour features five treat stops at dog-friendly locations on Liberty Street.

The Sip and Stroll will be in effect for this event, as well – allowing you to do your holiday shopping and explore downtown with your favorite adult beverage or warm, seasonal drink in-hand. Last call for Sip and Stroll will be at 7 p.m., allowing festival attendees to grab a drink before catching the City of Harrisonburg’s Holiday Parade.

The parade will bring back its traditional format for the first time since 2019 with more than 60 decorated floats, marching bands, special guests from the North Pole and ending with the tree lighting on Court Square. Those wishing to watch the parade should find a spot along Main Street between Rock Street and Harrisonburg City Hall.

“All of us with Harrisonburg Parks & Rec are thrilled to see the Holiday Parade return to Downtown Harrisonburg – along with the thousands of community members and families from across the region who come out for this special celebration,” Harrisonburg Recreation & Special Events Manager Matt Little said. “We’re very grateful for the many staff members, partners and organizations who are coming together to make sure that a wonderful time can be had by all as we celebrate this holiday season.”

The full day of events will include:

  • 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.: HDR’s Cookie Tour and Max’s Holiday Treat Heist (ticketed events)
  • 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.: How the Grinch Stole Liberty Street activities and BINGO
  • Noon: Arc of Harrisonburg-Rockingham’s Santa Run, Walk ‘N Roll
  • Noon – 5 p.m.: Voting open for the Gingerbread House Build-Off at The Harrisonburg Homes Team at Kline May Realty Office
  • Noon – 7 p.m.: Sip & Stroll is active
  • Noon – 2 p.m. Live Nativities at Asbury Church
  • 1 – 4 p.m.: Horse and Carriage Rides down Main Street
  • 2 – 3 p.m.: Bright Start Theatre presents “A Dickens Tale” at Central Library
  • 2 – 4 p.m.: Photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus on Court Square
  • 3 – 4:30 p.m.: VOICE’s Together as One Benefit Concert for On the Road Collaborative
  • 5 – 6:30 p.m.: Live Nativities at First Presbyterian Church
  • 7 p.m. – Start of Harrisonburg Parks and Rec’s Holiday Parade
  • Tree lighting on Court Square to follow

Winter Wonderfest is a free community festival made possible through sponsorship by Janney Financial/Lantz Gochenour Investment Group, Ryan Homes, the Harrisonburg Homes Team at Kline May Realty, LD&B, Nextgen Aviators, Glo Fiber, Weiler Orthodontics and your local Geico office.

To find more information about Winter Wonderfest, visit downtownharrisonburg.org/winter-wonderfest.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.

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