LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — Tens of thousands of revelers will watch marching bands play music, people wave from floats, and even a couple get married at the Lakeland Christmas parade Thursday evening.

“What’s so beautiful about the Lakeland Christmas parade is that it is one of a kind and it’s arguably one of the biggest Christmas parades that’s in the central Florida area,” said Maggie Briggs, president of the Junior League of Greater Lakeland, which hosts the parade with the city of Lakeland every year. “People drive for miles and miles and miles to come to this parade.”

The idea came about four decades ago when the then-president of the Junior League was inspired by an event out of town.

“She had been visiting a small local town that had a beautiful Christmas parade, very much like what we see today. She just loved the atmosphere that that brought to the community,” Briggs said.

This year, 100 groups are participating in the parade that begins after a fireworks display over Lake Mirror at 7 p.m.

A tradition involving chairs grew into a nuisance for city officials.

People were setting their chairs out days in advance to secure a spot to watch the parade, causing safety hazards on the sidewalk.

In recent years, the city has restricted its policy to only allow chairs to be placed on the day of the parade.

“I can tell you this is the first year that we didn’t see a chair out until the day of the event, so thank you, citizens. It’s been a big issue,” said Kevin Cook, city of Lakeland communications director.

The parade, considered the biggest event of the year in Lakeland, requires involvement from several city departments, including public works, Lakeland Fire Department, and even solid waste.

“We use our solid waste trucks to block some of the entrances and some of the side streets just as a safety factor,” Cook said.

More than 100 Lakeland police officers will be working the event as well, an official said.

Parents of students at South McKeel Academy were assembling their float Thursday afternoon, making for a long, but worthwhile work day.

“The kids love it. The kids on the float, the kids that see it in the crowds, they are like, oh! Because it’s their school. It’s worth it,” Michele Hart said.

“It’s kind of like the kickoff to the holidays for us. Once the parade has started then we’re in full Christmas spirit,” said Elizabeth Wisneski who runs two floats for each of her businesses, Family Martial Arts and Family Reptiles.

The parade kicks off at 7 p.m. following a fireworks display over Lake Mirror.

To view the route, click here.