McALLEN — The city is moving forward with their annual illuminated parade, but this year it will be virtual for all but a few essential workers who will be featured as grand marshals.

McAllen residents will get to decide which essential workers from across the Rio Grande Valley will be celebrated during the parade, which will be broadcast live at 6 p.m. Dec. 5, by nominating them at McAllenHolidayParade.com.

“This year has been a difficult year for everyone,” McAllen Mayor Jim Darling state in a news release Thursday. “As we learned to navigate through the challenges of wearing a mask, curbside delivery, Zoom meetings and Google classrooms, others still had to go to work, exposing themselves and their families to COVID-19.”

Those essential workers didn’t have the luxury of working virtually, Darling said.

“From grocery store clerks to custodians, from teachers to emergency personnel, from retail workers to restaurant employees, from delivery drivers to government employees and of course, from doctors to nurses, these were the workers that helped keep businesses open, buildings clean and disinfected, people fed, economies stable, students learning, and people safe and healthy,” McAllen city officials said.

“That is why our essential frontline workers will have their place of honor next to good ol’ St. Nick at the 2020 McAllen Holiday Parade…” Darling added.

Dallas Cowboys legend Tony Hill, who has made multiple appearances at the McAllen Holiday Parade, announced the change in tone for this year’s selection of the grand marshals for the parade.

“It was around this same time last year that I was getting ready to head down to Cowboys Country, McAllen, Texas, to take part in the largest illuminated holiday and helium balloon parade in Texas… and I can tell you — it was a blast,” said Hill. “But this year, I am even more excited because I get to tune in to the McAllen holiday parade with my family to join millions of fans to cheer on the Real Heroes of 2020 — every frontline worker that has worked so hard to keep the RGV safe and special.

“Thank you for everything you do and congratulations. You deserve it. Have fun and we’ll be cheering for you.”

Residents can submit their entries by sharing their stories and explaining why their nominee represents the kind of extraordinary heroism that deserves recognition — all while doing an everyday job in extraordinary circumstances.

Photos can be included in the submission and entries must be received by Monday, Nov. 30 at 11:59 p.m.

“I’m told Santa Claus will be standing by at the South Pole of Texas to bring them on board as Grand Marshals for one unforgettable holiday event,” McAllen City Manager Roel “Roy” Rodriguez said.

Winners will be invited to be a part of the event and will ride on any one of the 40 floats that will be featured in the parade.

City officials also announced text-to-win opportunities that will occur every Friday until Dec. 5. Prizes will include a PS5; an Xbox; Nintendo Switch; Yeezys; $1,000 cash prize; an official Parade Watch Party that will be shown live on TV; and a chance to ride on Santa’s sleigh during the parade, among other prizes. To participate, text the word SOUTHPOLE to 474747 and register to win.