On a beautiful, clear Saturday evening, thousands of people turned San Marco Road into a block party, lining the street several deep for the annual Christmas Island Style street parade. Cars decked out in multi-colored lights, bands from the Florida Brass to school ensembles from Lely High School, Marco Island Charter Middle School, and Marco Island Academy, floats and boats and bell-ringers delighted the crowd.
Many of the spectators were draped in almost as many Christmas lights as the parade entries, and cute kids along the parade route were magnets for candy and little stuffed animals handed out by passing marchers. Musicians, cheerleaders, and dancers made a point of putting on a little show as they came by the reviewing stand just before Barfield Dr., where the judges sat making lists, and probably checking them twice.
Judges Danielle Siegel, Shari Brousseau, Katie O’Hara, Don Condee, and City Manager Lee Niblock awarded Best Marching Band to Lely, but hedged their bets by giving Best Overall Band Performance to MICMS. The middle school brings over 200 musicians and dancers, led by principal George Abounader. Given MIA’s much smaller enrolment, it appeared the entire school all the way to the janitors was in the parade, including one young man carrying a placard advertising school’s upcoming production of “Willie Wonka Jr.” Shriner classics including Klassy Kars, Flintstones, and assorted Potentates made their traditional appearance.
Best Overall in Parade was awarded to Marco Lutheran Church, whose float and its occupants proclaimed, “I believe!” Additional churches in the parade included San Marco, whose Knights of Columbus won for Most Holiday Traditional, and the Marco Presbyterian Church Handbell Choir, singing and playing traditional favorite carols on their bells.
Other standouts recognized by the judges were Scuba Marco, with mermaids, King Neptune and bubbles, the Celtic Spirit School of Irish Dance, the YMCA, Sail & Power Squadron, and Marco Patriots. As they approached the reviewing stand, many floats’ crews offloaded bags and boxes of wrapped gifts to give to less affluent children through the Guadalupe Center.
Along the parade route just before the end, Alicia Cushman and Dana Williams continued their tradition of nearly 20 years, laying out a holiday smorgasbord under a series of illuminated canopies, and passing out refreshments gratis to all comers.
“We started in the back of a pickup truck, and every year it’s gotten a little bit bigger,” said Williams.
And just like that other parade, the one in front of Macy’s on Thanksgiving Day, Santa Claus provided the finale. This year, he rode a sleigh on the back of a flatbed truck, accompanied by Mrs. Claus.