Students from Ira Cross Elementary School dance during the 2011 Killeen Christmas parade. This year’s parade starts at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, part of a day of fun activities for families downtown.

Killeen’s 50th annual Christmas parade will follow a new collection of events this year.

The city’s first Holiday Hoopla will include a movie, performances for children and a guest-appearance by Santa Claus all before the parade kicks off at 4:30 p.m. Following the parade, an actor from the NickToons series “NFL Rush Zone” will perform.

“We’re trying to draw Killeen residents to come to downtown to see what’s going on and enjoy a free afternoon and evening,” said Leslie Hinkle, director of community development in the city and project manager at the Killeen Arts and Activities Center. “I think it will be a really jovial atmosphere.”

Starting at 1 p.m., the KAAC Performing Arts Center will screen “A Christmas Story” for residents, free of charge.

At 2 p.m., Merry Market Days at the Green Avenue Farmers Market kicks off. About two dozen food and arts and crafts vendors will be set up at the market. The Ellison High School choir will perform at 2:30 p.m., and a local guitarist will take the stage at 3:30 p.m.

From 2:30 to 4 p.m., Santa will be available at Clements Auditorium, in the KAAC, for photos and Christmas wishes.

The parade starts at 4:30 p.m. through downtown Killeen, following a new route due to construction.

After the parade is complete, around 7 p.m., two performances for children are planned at the KAAC: an educational performance from Veggie Pals, a group out of Houston that promotes the fight against childhood obesity; and a performance by Malachi Cohen, a NickToons actor who voices the character ISH from the show “NFL Rush Zone.”

“ISH’s dad is in the military, so that’s kind of the tie to Killeen-Fort Hood,” Hinkle said.

In the past, the parade alone has drawn between 3,000 and 5,000 people.

“Come early, the parade route is totally changed this year. It’s really going to be a hub of activity,” Hinkle said. “We’ve never done a whole-day event surrounding the parade.”

Contact Audrey Spencer at or (254) 501-7476

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