The Christmas Island Style street parade took over San Marco Blvd. on Saturday evening. In general, everyone in the crowd that lined the streets, several deep behind the police barricades at the Barfield intersection, seemed to be having a great time, but at least one complaint was voiced.
"No candy?" Gino Cretella, age 7, asked rhetorically, after the YMCA contingent swept past without tossing out treats to the kids. Many other groups, though, did toss candy, and the Rose Marina folks even threw toys for the bigger kids – key bobbers to keep your boat keys afloat. Theirs was just one of the illuminated boats, bedecked with holiday lights and pulled on a trailer, that made the street parade also a boat parade.
Mother Nature nearly rained on the parade, dousing the island with showers just before the kickoff at 6:30 p.m., but if the weather winnowed down the crowds, there were still plenty of spectators, and nearly as many in the parade itself. A contingent of motorcyclists led off, followed by the police honor guard with the flag.
Floats, civic organizations, school groups and marching bands followed. The parade was staged in leisurely fashion, with often hundreds of yards between one entrant and the next, thereby taking over an hour and a half to pass a given point.
Keith Pershing of Island Automotive, in what appeared to be a Model T Ford under all the lights, had his car stall right at the intersection of San Marco and Barfield, forcing his passenger, identified as Chuck, to hop out and repeatedly crank the engine to restart it.
The Knights of Columbus marched behind a banner urging everyone to "Keep Christ in Christmas." Senior Knights Bill Lewis and Wayne Waldack, resplendent in their swords and sashes, marched the route, although some additional senior knights, including Grand Knight Ben Farnsworth, rode and waved from a convertible.
Some of the biggest crowd pleasers were the marching bands. The Lely High School band, in full regalia, were accompanied by a legion of pompom girls and baton twirlers. The Marco Island Academy contingent marched behind three students carrying the letters M-I-A, with student Elizabeth Furman inside a cage, apparently on the naughty list.
In the Marco Island Charter Middle School band, some of the horns, including at least one tuba appearing to be larger than the young man carrying it, were lit up like Christmas trees with colored lights.
The Island Dance Academy brought a large group of dancers, the Newcomers Club portrayed "The Nutcracker," and the Just Friends club marched dressed as matching snowmen, or rather snowwomen. The Shriners showed up with all their vehicles, including the Araba Jeepsters and the "Flintstones," who zoomed around in their little cars, prompting MIPD Officer Al Schettino to caution everyone to move well back.
The dancing shepherds of Marco Lutheran Church sang "Tell Somebody About Jesus." Marco Presbyterian offered a "Madrigal Christmas," with a beautifully executed tableau of holiday feasters. Even the U.S. Postal Service had a gaggle of mail trucks in the parade.
Klaus Beierle, in from Germany to stay in his Marco condo, recorded the whole presentation on his iPad.
"We love this," he said. "Germans love parades, especially Christmas parades, because we don't have those at home."
The climax of the parade came as Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus appeared, riding in splendor in a white wirework carriage apparently borrowed from Cinderella, and pulled by a white horse, showing there is a time when horse-drawn carriages are appropriate on Marco's streets.
Stephanie LoCascio, who just moved back to the island after serving in the Navy, also said she loved the parade, and the best was saved for last.
"Santa in the carriage was my favorite," she said.
After a final flurry of emergency vehicles, and Jack Patterson walking along by himself, the Christmas Parade was over for another year, and Christmas itself ticked one day closer.