COVID precautions forced the cancellation of last year's business-as-usual Belgrade Festival of Lights, but boy was Plan B a success: A lit-up, covered-in-Christmas-lights Truck Convoy.
More than 60 trucks, trailers, flatbeds and semis, all decked out in Christmas lights and lined up in a convoy, traversed a giant, seven-mile loop from the Gallatin Speedway, past the airport, through Ryen Glen, along Penwell Bridge and Dry Creek roads and Jackrabbit Lane, past hte middle school/high school and Quaw, and through various other Belgrade neighborhoods before finishing at the Las Campanas subdivision.
This year's Festival of Lights Truck Convoy will be Dec. 11, and "maybe" 80 trucks plan to be in the parade, said Tiffany Maierle, president of the Belgrade Community Coalition, which sponsors the event. It starts at 6 p.m.
The convoy was a perfect solution to last year's COVID restrictions, Maierle said, since people could watch from their homes or their vehicles parked along the route.
"It was wall-to-wall cars last year," Maierle added. "It was packed, and we didn't even advertise.”
"This year we're even asking people to go on our (Belgrade Community Coalition) Facebook page and let people know what neighborhood the convoy is in right then.”
This truck convoy is replacing the usual pre-COVID Christmas Stroll, she told the Belgrade City Council this week.
"It was quite a hit last year. One thing we heard from the truck drivers last year was that they didn't want it to end."
Only professional drivers and big rigs are allowed, she said, and drivers need to pre-register. To register they can click a link on belgreatmt.com.
So, Maierle said, the Christmas convoy activities will be extended this year, with a "Truck Village" gathering the night before (Dec. 10) at the Gallatin Speedway. The event will include food trucks, vendors, an appearance by Santa, carolers and fireworks.
It starts at 5:30 p.m. and ends at 10.
These "replacement events" for the usual Festival of Lights "set Belgrade apart from other communities' holiday events," Maierle said.
Additional events sponsored by the Belgrade Community Coalition include:
* Holiday Light Park at the Belgrade Senior Center, from the end of November through December. Volunteers are needed Nov. 21 at 10 a.m. to help install the lights at the Senior Center. There will be various scheduled activities throughout the month: Memorial Light Night is Dec. 16; Santa, food trucks and carolers will be there on Dec. 17; and the chili feed is Dec. 21.
* The Jingle Jog (sixth Annual 5K Fun Run). This year the route changes to start and end at the Rhino Lounge at the Mercantile Building downtown.
* Ugly Christmas Outfit contest. In a take on the Ugly Christmas Sweater, residents are asked to get all "holiday dressed up" for a contest at the Rhino Lounge after the Jingle Jog 5K.
* The Belgrade Community Coalition is also planning to outline the tops of the buildings on the east side of the historic block on both sides of Main and Broadway. "I've already got all the building owners signed up, but one," Maierle told the Belgrade News.