It was a big time for mittens, gloves, blankets and steaming beverage cups in Akron on Saturday morning.
Just days after folks were putting up holiday decorations in their shirt-sleeves, people had to defy freezing temperatures, gusts of wind and occasional snowflakes in order to line up along South Main Street for the Welcome Santa Parade. The hourlong event was capped by the arrival of Santa Claus and his sleigh that was helpfully pulled along by an Akron city parks maintenance truck.
Longtime parade watcher Maryalice Randle of Akron was settled into her folding chair at her favorite spot by the corner of South Main and East Exchange streets. For her, attending the parade is part of getting ready for Christmas.
Ray Massoli of Tallmadge attended the parade for the first time because of a family connection.
“We had a family reunion [Friday], and my nephew said his daughter was in the parade,” Massoli said. So Ray and his wife, Pamela, bundled up, and Massoli set up his camera for a shot of Madelyn Whitis in the contingent from Jill Royka’s Spotlight School of the Arts in Medina.
Massoli was impressed by the parade as a whole, even under conditions that likely had some spectators wishing for coats as thick as those on the Irish wolfhounds walking by.
Nor were the wolfhounds the only four-legged parade-goers. There were also horses, and at least one donkey.
Human participants included Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic, riding in the back of a vintage convertible; other local politicians, and folks from the Chesty Puller Young Marines, Rough Riders 4-H, the USS Lagrange Star Trek and science-fiction club, and the Northwest Family Recreation Center dancers.
Waving to the crowd were pageant competitors like Barberton Cherry Blossom Queen Jessica Pol, Miss Grapette Katie Peck, Miss Ohio Teen Essence Aundrea Green and National Hamburger Festival Queen Isabella Greathouse.
The Lock 3 train wheeled by. A huge truck from Greg’s Towing looked even bigger thanks to rows of reindeer-shaped lights in front and inflatables on the back.
There were Cub Scouts, Model A car buffs (with their cars), drill teams, hikers, roller skaters, boxers, marching bands and tambourine players.
And there was a well-chilled audience, relying on double, triple, even quadruple layers of clothing, or huddling in a bus shelter and doorways along the parade route. But the cold seemed to ease a bit as colorful marchers came by, playing music or dancing and tossing candy to children.
Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture and other topics for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including in the HeldenFiles Online blog, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or email@example.com.