RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- It's the last practice before parade time for the Helping Hand Mission Band. The drummers, dancers, and twirlers are all geared up for Raleigh's Annual Christmas Day Parade
"It has been a lot of excitement," said Sylvia Wiggins.
Exciting but also a lot of work to get ready for showtime. The band members made their own uniforms and even spray-painted their band hats.
"Everybody came together and put this thing together. We started with nothing and, you know, we create," said Wiggins.
The band has marched down Hillsborough Street in the Raleigh Christmas Parade for 30 years led by Wiggins, the 2022 parade Grand Marshall.
But this year's parade is a bit different. They're marching in honor of two young girls. Hailey Brooks, who was killed in last year's parade, and band member Samantha Briggs who was killed in a hit-and-run crash days after marching in that same parade.
"These young girls, they love music, they love dance. And they say it's something about music that brings some of the nicest people together and they were," Wiggins said.
The love is felt near and far. From Virginia to Rocky Mount and Wilson, hundreds of people will pack downtown to experience a tradition that dates back 79 years.
This year comes with changes. No floats or cars following last year's tragedy.
"I'm all for the change. So I look forward to seeing what they have to offer and I'll go from there," said Durham resident and long-time parade-goer Katherine Lankoande.
Friday night city crews made the last minute preparations and placed barricades along the parade route for safety.
Organizers also brought in the festive flare. Eyewitness News even spotted Santa getting ready for the parade, an event that's a tradition for many families, including Lankoande.
"It's been 17 years and I can recall my first parade and I was hooked from my first parade. So, every year I come down. My favorite is getting my hot cocoa, coming down, and just bundling up and enjoying the parade," said Lankoande.
For Carla Boyd, the parade is all about family.
"It's the Christmas parade, and my family came from all over. I have my aunt from New Jersey and my cousins from Virginia. So we love to spend the holidays together. So what better time to come for the Christmas Parade in Raleigh," said Boyd.
And for the Helping Hand Mission, the parade is all about the music.
The parade starts Saturday at 9:30 a.m. at Hillsborough Street and St. Mary's Street making its way down Fayetteville Street.