Over 50 groups participated in the 35th annual Alachua Christmas Parade this past Saturday. The parade’s theme of “Alachua’s Legacy: Our Children” was in evidence as a variety of youth organizations, including Alachua Girl Scout Troop 282, marched down Main Street, waving to the crowds and tossing candy to youngsters.
ALACHUA – Saturday afternoon’s overcast skies and threatening rain were no match for the excitement and buzz of activity in downtown Alachua. With the city’s annual Christmas parade slated to begin at 2 p.m., crowds began gathering early along Main Street in spite of the gloomy forecast.
This year’s parade theme of “Alachua’s Legacy: Our Children” offered participants a seemingly infinite range of ideas to use in decorating the colorful floats that lined up at the top of Main Street. The parade is a partnership between the Alachua Chamber of Commerce and the City of Alachua, and this marked the parade’s 35th year.
Starting at 2 p.m. the series of floats, people, cars and an assortment of animals, including horses, dogs, donkeys and llamas, headed down Main Street as hundreds of excited spectators perched on street curbs and folding chairs waited for the show.
Former Alachua commissioner Orien Hills, 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 Commissioner 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 through the intersection.
Waiting in anxious anticipation for the candy that is traditionally tossed from parade participants, excited children lined the street. 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.
This year’s parade saw its share of elected officials participate. Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell took her usual spot near the front of the parade walking alongside Alachua Chief of Police Joel DeCoursey. Alachua County Commissioner Lee Pinkoson made the trek on foot, handing out candy along the parade route. And a familiar face in the parade was Clovis Watson, Jr., who has appeared in a number of his hometown parades. This difference this time is his new role as State Representative for Florida House District 20. Also walking along the parade route was Florida’s District 3 Congressman-elect Ted Yoho.
To the delight of spectators, the parade lasted nearly 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, float judges David Pope, Linda Chapman and Eva Copeland still had a tough task at hand as they continued deliberating their decision for the float decorating contest. In the for-profit category, first place went to Matchmaker Realty, second place to Alarion Bank and third place to Lee’s Preschool. In the non-profit category, first place went to the Santa Fe Raider Marching Band, second place to River of Life Church and third place to the Hare Krishna Temple.
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