– Santa’s arrival is imminent.

Thousands will descend on downtown Duluth on Friday night for the annual Christmas City of the North Parade, and thousands more will tune in for the live broadcast on KBJR and online at kbjr6.com.

“It’s a huge tradition here in the Northland,” said station spokesman Ben Read. “So many people have marched in it, their kids have marched in it. The Maple, Wisconsin, band has been in every parade as far as I know.”

A tradition started by former KBJR general manager Bob Rich in 1958, this year’s parade is dedicated to Sharon Wallack, the former receptionist who coordinated the event “for as long as anyone can remember.”

“She was the first face everyone saw when they came to the station,” Read said. “This is our way of saying thank you.”

Wallack spent 46 years at the station and died in the past year.

The parade starts at 6:30 p.m. and runs on Superior Street — roadwork wrapped up just in time — stretching about a mile from Fitger’s to Maurices and ending with Santa’s sleigh.

Heavy traffic is expected all weekend, as the Bentleyville Tour of Lights opens on Duluth’s waterfront Saturday and the University of Minnesota Duluth men’s and women’s hockey teams play home games at nearby Amsoil Arena.

The weather for the parade, which has never caused a cancellation, is expected to be clear and in the high 20s.

The parade was canceled just once, the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Read said.

KBJR will rebroadcast the parade on Christmas Day.

To get into the festive mood, listen to Merv Griffin’s “Christmas City,” which was written about Duluth for the parade way back when.