Maryalice Randle and her daughter, Nicole Greathouse, stake out the same site each Saturday after Thanksgiving — the corner of Main and Exchange streets in downtown Akron.
That’s when Santa Claus comes to town and their Christmas season officially begins.
The city of Akron’s 27th annual Welcome Santa Parade swept into downtown on Saturday with dozens of elves, dancers, unicyclists and wise men bundled up against the near-freezing temperatures.
This year, Bridgestone Americas was the sponsor of the Santa float, the last attraction in the hourlong parade.
The “Big Guy” made his official entrance in a Bridgestone Americas Indianapolis 500-style car that was atop a 30-foot trailer being towed by a truck.
This was a real race car, decorated in Indianapolis especially for the Akron Thanksgiving parade.
But there was much more to see than just Santa or his Indycar, thanks to dozens of clubs, nonprofit groups and companies that paraded their wares and distributed everything from stuffed animals to kitchen magnets to rubber balls.
So many parade participants threw candy to kids along the Main Street route that mom Dee Girard of Cuyahoga Falls has had to set a limit on how much her children — Michael, 15, Matthew, 13, Emily, 11, and Joseph, 9 — could collect.
This year, the family was nestled into folding chairs near the start of the parade route.
“Once their baggie is full, that’s all they get,” Girard said. “I’ve learned.”
Her children and others, young and old alike, waved to a wide assortment of parade participants — everything from horses (followed by the ever-necessary pooper-scooper) to the Akron Metropolitan Parks Hiking Club and the Akron Rubber City Rollergirls.
The North Central Ohio Search and Rescue turnout included team leader Marty Warchola of Medina and his 180-pound Newfoundland, Maggie.
Then there were bands, dance teams and the Salvation Army, with perhaps the only nod to religion in the parade — a manger scene on the rear of a truck.
The Akron RubberDucks, formerly the Aeros, showed off their new home uniform jerseys. The minor league affiliate of the Cleveland Indians changed its team name and colors in October to reflect Akron’s heritage in the rubber industry.
Attending the parade has become a yearly ritual for Cindy Price of Akron and her two children, Alex, 10, and Madison, 6, who was thrilled to get her first Christmas present of the season — a plush pink elephant passed from a strolling elf.
Not that this was the first time Madison had seen Santa this year, of course. She got a one-on-one visit with Old Saint Nick at the Akron Tree Festival, where she told him she wanted, of all things, a typewriter.
The Santa parade was sponsored by the city of Akron, Bridgestone Americas and local radio stations WAKR, WONE and WQMX.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at email@example.com or 330-996-3729.