BILLED as the centrepiece of Edinburgh's Christmas celebrations, an illuminated parade will snake its way through the streets of the city centre.
But crowds expected to throng the Royal Mile, the Mound and Princes Street on Saturday night in the hope of catching a glimpse of Santa or his reindeers will be in for a surprise. Instead, they be greeted crazy golfers, a musical milk float, a Thunderbirds-style spaceship, and even a hearse "that puts the fun back into funerals".
They are among the highlights of a huge "Art Car Parade" that is being staged in the capital as its main contribution to the final weekend of Scotland's Year of Homecoming celebrations.
Others include a vintage ice cream van whose design is inspired by Edvard Munch's The Scream, a mobile discotheque, a cross between a rickshaw and an airship, a giant insect and a Rolls Royce made entirely of wood.
Two hearses feature in the parade – one has an ice palace built on to it, while the other, dubbed "The Cremulator", is said to dig its own grave.
The vehicles will be equipped with a host of special effects and staffed by a cast of street theatre performers and costumed characters. Edinburgh is the first Scottish city to host the Art Car Parade after it was successfully staged in Manchester, Blackpool and Newcastle.
Artists from across Britain have worked on the 20 vehicles taking part in the 20,000 event, which is based on similar parades staged in the United States.
The event originated in Houston in 2006 and more than 200,000 spectators turn out for the annual parade there.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish event said it was aimed at "subverting the glorification and dominance of the car in a creative, playful and inventive way". She added: "The parades engage people in an inclusive, mobile, family-friendly experience that delights spectators of all ages."
The event, instigated by City of Edinburgh Council as part of its annual Christmas festival, will start with a display of the cars in Parliament Square from 3pm on Saturday, with the parade heading up the Mound two hours later.
Nickie Gott, managing director of She's Gott It!, producers of Edinburgh's Christmas celebrations, said: "We are really excited to be teaming up with Homecoming 2009 for their finale celebrations. The Art Car Parade is such an unusual event, and it brings variety and cultural diversity into the Christmas programme that is different from anything we have done before."
The Homecoming Art Car Parade is among four days of events being held in the city centre to kick off the capital's Christmas celebrations.
Street theatre acts, children's activities and sound and light features will be brought into Princes Street from Thursday morning in the lead-up to the switching-on of the capital's Christmas lights.