Durham County

Santa Claus is ready for Durham parade — and for the 1st time, he’s African American

Warren Keyes, pictured, will be the first African-American Santa Claus to be featured at the Durham Holiday Parade set for 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 2.
Warren Keyes, pictured, will be the first African-American Santa Claus to be featured at the Durham Holiday Parade set for 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 2. Submitted

If you love parades, downtown Durham will be the place to be on Saturday morning.

The Durham Holiday Parade will be taking over Main Street for the second straight year at 11 a.m. Afterward, festivities will continue at the American Tobacco Campus with the Holiday Fun Fest (1-4 p.m.). The city then will light the tree at CCB Plaza at about 4 p.m.

The holiday season started Friday night as the water tower at American Tobacco was lit and there was an ensuing celebration. It included performances by several choral and dance groups.

For the parade, Main Street will be closed beginning at 7 a.m. and is expected to reopen by 2 p.m.

The parade, which has 93 entries, will start run from the Health Department (Main and Dillard streets) and end near Duke’s East Campus (Main Street and Buchanan Boulevard).

The parade marshals are Mayor Bill Bell and Mayor-elect Steve Schewel, who will lead the procession down Main Street.

There will be three designated performance areas along the route, at Main Street’s intersections with Mangum, Chapel Hill and Duke streets.

Spectators are encouraged to bring their own chairs and blankets. Seating will not be provided.

The parade, organized by Durham Parks & Recreation, returned last year after an eight-year hiatus.

“We’re excited about the parade,” said Cynthia Booth, Public Affairs Specialist for Durham Parks & Recreation. “And we’re pleased we’re going to have great weather.”

Sunny skies and temperatures in the 50s should be the rule of the day, according to various weather forecasts. Last year the parade was greeted by frigid temperatures.

After the parade at Fun Fest, participants can enjoy snow sledding, pony rides, inflatable bounce houses, arts and crafts activities, visits with Santa and train rides.

Booth said combining all of the activities was a way to make an entire day of it.

“It took a little more coordination but we thought having our two events on the same day was a good idea,” Booth said.

It’s the first time the parade and Holiday Fun Fest have happened on the same day. And it was a nice coincidence that the tree lighting also was scheduled for the same day, Booth said.

The parade will have a special guest star, too.

Durham’s parade will have an African-American Santa for the first time. He is coming to Durham from Santas Just Like Me, a Raleigh organization that provides Santas of various ethnicities for parties, gatherings and photo opportunities.

Warren Keyes will be in the featured role. It’s not the first time Keyes been to Durham as Santa. He’s appeared at the Hayti Center of Durham for the past several years, Keyes said.

“Durham is a wonderful place,” Keyes said. “It’s has been quite warm and receptive and I’m extremely excited. Very, very excited. But it is something that I really didn’t seek out out myself.”

Joe Johnson: 919-419-6678, @JEJ_HSNews