As friendly competition goes, the field for the upcoming Bastrop Christmas Parade is open. It's opened up after the first-place winner of the past five years running has no plans to defend its trophy and accompanying $150. Bastrop-Morehouse Chamber of Commerce Director Dorothy Ford said that Morehouse Community Medical Center is unable to participate in the Dec. 1 annual parade. That leaves, by default, the second-place winner for the past five years, Langiappe Healthcare, in prime position. But it's Christmas: Who's counting? “The parade is going to be wonderful, it always is and it kind of kicks off the unofficial Christmas season” for residents, Ford said. Last year the parade drew 16 floats and 40 overall parade participants, including walkers, autos and musicians. About a dozen volunteers affiliated with the Chamber are bracing for what Ford says is arguably the Chamber's busiest time of the year. While there's fewer than 10 groups who've signed on as float participants so far, Ford fully expects a large turnout again, as the Chamber's office phone has been “ringing off the hook” with requests for applications. This year’s theme is “A Tropical Island Christmas.” Fees to enter the parade are: floats - $85; vehicle - $30; vehicles carrying school beauties, homecoming courts - $10; marching or walking groups – no fee. Ford said the parade committee elected to reverberate back to years past and have the panel of judges rate the floats during their march and not beforehand. Thousands of spectators are expected to line up four and five rows deep along the parade's route which starts in front of the Magnolia Shopping Center on Madison Avenue and runs east up to the former Walmart building. Ford said one new guest to this year's parade will be the mascot for Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers restaurants, “Demon,” a miniature white Labrador. The Chamber of Commerce's office is located at 110 N. Franklin St. in Bastrop. Parade participants may call 281-3794 for an application to be mailed or FAXed to them. Second-place parade winner gets $100; third place gets $75. The deadline for entering the parade is noon, Nov. 29.