PEORIA — The annual Santa Claus Parade will unfurl through downtown Peoria next Friday, welcoming the Christmas season to central Illinois for the 130th time.

The Santa Parade, billed as the longest running holiday parade in the country, will step off at 10:15 a.m. on Nov. 24 and feature more than 75 costumed characters, horses, decorated floats, marching bands and, of course, the man in red himself, Santa Claus.

The theme for this year's Santa Parade is "That Magical Christmas Feeling," and floats will be competing for awards based on that theme. Awards include best overall float, best novelty entry, best new entry, best nonprofit entry, best commercial entry and best religious entry.

Peoria Area Community Events announced Wednesday that the grand marshal of this year's Santa Parade will be Brig. Gen. William P. "Robbie" Robertson, who was the commander of the 182nd Airlift Wing of the Illinois Air National Guard for the past 13 years. Robertson is a Peoria native who attended Peoria High School, Illinois Central College and Bradley University and is now the chief of staff for the Illinois Air National Guard.

The route for the parade remains the same as last year, with the beginning point at the Peoria Fire Department's Central firehouse on Monroe and Bryan streets and the finale at the Peoria County Courthouse. The live parade telecast from WMBD-TV Channel 31 will broadcast from the corner of Main and Adams streets.

For more information on the parade, contact Susie Stockman from PACE at 691-3553.