Alachua_Parade_DSCF5278_copyAlachua's 34th Annual Christmas Parade offered an eclectic mix of floats, people, cars and an assortment of animals, including horses, dogs and llamas.

ALACHUA – Threatening rain and overcast skies were no match for the excitement and buzz of activity in downtown Alachua Saturday afternoon.  With the city’s annual Christmas parade slated to begin at 2 p.m., crowds began gathering around noon along Main Street in spite of the gloomy forecast.  While an occasional rain shower has fallen during previous parades causing umbrellas to launch, this was not the case Saturday afternoon as the event remained rain free.

This year’s parade theme of a “Good Life Community Christmas” offered participants a seemingly infinite range of ideas to use in decorating the colorful floats that lined up at the top of Main Street.

Starting at 2 p.m. the series of floats, people, cars and an assortment of animals, including horses, dogs and llamas, headed down Main Street as hundreds of excited spectators perched on street curbs and folding chairs waited for the show.

Former Alachua mayor Jean Calderwood, who served as the parade’s Grand Marshal, headed up the procession of 50-plus registered parade entries.

This year’s parade featured a float design contest with prizes for not-for-profit and for-profit entries.  As each participant reached the intersection of Main Street and NW 148th Place at the flashing yellow light, they paused under the watchful eyes of parade judges who jotted down scores.  Announcing each parade entry as they passed by, City of Alachua Vice Mayor Ben Boukari, Jr. served as the Master of Ceremonies.  Along with Boukari was Alachua recreation director Hal Brady and chamber of commerce member Gussie Lee, who joined in engaging participants in good natured banter as they passed by.

Excited children waited in anxious anticipation for the candy that is traditionally tossed from parade participants.  Red and white striped candy canes, green and red peppermints and a variety of other colorful candy were soon in the hands of youngsters who dashed from their perches to retrieve the sweets.  While cheery elves handed out red and white balloons to children, one woman walked through the crowd serving hot coffee to adults.

To the delight of spectators, the parade lasted well over an hour.  And unquestionably, the crowd’s favorite appeared at the end of the parade.  Perched high atop a fire truck and dressed in his trademark red suit, a jolly Santa delivered a hearty “ho-ho-ho” and a “Merry Christmas” before dashing off.

While the parade may have been over, judges Randy and Antoinette Hunt, and Alachua’s city decorator Diana Felver, weren’t finished, as they continued to deliberate their decision for the float decorating contest. In the non-profit category, 1st Place was awarded to the Santa Fe Pop Warner Football and Cheerleaders, 2nd Place was awarded to Standing United as Americans and 3rd Place was awarded to Tacachale.  In the for-profit category, Matchmaker Realty claimed 1st Place and Dollar General claimed 2nd Place with 3rd Place going to Marlowe Smith Electric.

A partnership between the Alachua Chamber of Commerce and the City of Alachua, this marked the parade’s 34th year.

*****For more photos of the parade visit us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ACTNEWS