By: Hadley Cottingham

(Cleveland)- Downtown Cleveland was packed Saturday night as the Northeast Georgia community joined together for the city’s “Christmas in the Mountains” celebration.

The event included a Christmas market, shopping, food, music, Christmas lights, tree lighting and a festive evening topped off with the annual “Christmas in the Mountains” parade.

For the first time since 2019, the Jack P. Nix Elementary School “Singing Raptors” got to kick off the Cleveland tree lighting with Christmas music they’ve been preparing over the school year. Students were excited to share their performances of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” with the Cleveland community.

Jack P. Nix Elementary School Music Teacher Jake Williams accompanies the “Singing Raptors” elementary school choir. (Hadley Cottingham/Now Habersham)

“It’s been a great day,” Music Teacher Jake Williams said. “We hope everyone enjoyed [the performance].”\

Children played together in Freedom Park following the performance as they waited for the Christmas tree lighting, which lit just as planned— even though organizers dealt with some issues earlier in the day when they found someone had unplugged the tree’s light pannels.

Freedom Park’s many Christmas lights were nothing in comparison to the glowing floats and vehicles that would soon fill the Dowtown Cleveland Square, as a large crowd gathered to see one of Northeast Georgia’s most anticipated parades.

Around 50 lighted floats and vehicles made their way around the square, showcasing businesses, churches, schools, sports teams and many other organizations’ holiday spirit. Children were delighted to see Santa ride in on top of a White County fire truck, and eye-catching costumes and dazzling lights impressed crowds.

Saturday’s event marked the end of the region’s first week of Christmas parades, with Toccoa, Clayton and Cleveland’s parades all in the books. Sunday, Gainesville will celebrate Christmas on Green Street with a parade and day full of activities. Tuesday, Habersham County’s Christmas parade will take to the streets of Cornelia at 6:30 p.m. And Helen will hold it’s Christmas parade on Saturday, Dec. 11.