WATERVILLE — Thousands of people gathered Friday night in downtown Waterville for the annual Parade of Lights and lighting of the Christmas tree in Castonguay Square. A light snow was falling as the final adjustments were being made to floats and as crowds lined Main Street.

“The best part every year is when everyone is lined up and ready to go just before the parade starts,” said Jennifer Olsen, executive director of Waterville Main Street, which hosts the annual parade.

More than 30 floats and acts were entered in the parade this year, a record number, she said. The parade, which starts at Head of Falls, usually takes place the day after Thanksgiving. It travels up Front Street, up Union Street and turns left onto Main Street, where it ends with the lighting of the Castonguay Square Christmas tree.

After the lighting of the tree, Santa Claus, who always rides on the last float in the parade, meets with children inside The Center on Main Street.

“It really brings in the Christmas spirit. It’s a busy weekend, but I enjoy giving back to people and kicking off the Christmas season,” said Mike Perkins of Oakland. Perkins owns the KMD Driving School and sponsored a Christmas morning-themed float. “It doesn’t matter how cold it is; it’s a fun thing to do,” he said.

“It’s something the kids look forward to every year,” said Stacy Valcourt, 31, of Waterville, who was dressed in her pajamas to walk with a Polar Express-themed float that her daughter’s dance school, TNT Dance Studio in Fairfield, was sponsoring.

On Main Street, spectators were enjoying hot chocolate and popcorn while they waited for the floats to pass by. There were dance troupes, people singing, lots of lights, inflatable snowmen and reindeer.

“It’s really cool. Our favorite float was the one with all the lights all over the trees,” said Jenn Pomelow, 41, of Waterville, who was watching the parade with her husband, Richard, and daughter Hannah, 10.

Santa awards three ribbons to floats before the parade, with first place called Santa’s Choice. This year the award went to Mushero’s Jacking & Moving in Fairfield. The second-place award, called Mrs. Claus’ Delight, went to Hamlin Marine in Waterville, for a large motor boat lit up with lights.

The third-place award, called Elf Honor, was awarded to Decal Gymnastics.

Olsen credits volunteers and city crews for making the parade possible, cleaning up from a storm that dumped about 10 inches of snow on the city Wednesday.

“The city crews did a fabulous job cleaning the sidewalks and roads of snow,” Olsen said. “It’s such a good community thing. It’s really a nice time for Waterville.”