BELOIT—The city kicked off the holiday season Friday night with the 30th Annual Downtown Beloit Association’s (DBA) Grand Lighted Holiday Parade.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the parade had been held as a drive-through “reverse parade” for the past two years. But on Friday night the traditional parade was back along with Santa’s arrival, much to the ample crowd’s delight.
Held in its full splendor, the parade featured dance troops, lighted floats and prancing pooches outfitted in their best holiday attire. Onlookers, adorned in Santa hats and lights, and one girl in cow pajamas, lined up waiting for the big event.
“The weather is amazing,” said DBA Executive Director Shauna El-Amin.
Friday’s enchanted evening featured a parade of 36 entries. Winners were as follows for the business category: first place, L’Bri; second, Prestige Dance Company; and third, Bucciferro Family McDonald’s. Non-profit winners were: first, Janesville-Beloit Kennel Club; second, Serenity Horse Rescue; and third, McNeel/Cunningham Westside Flag Corps.
Santa Claus was greeting many lap sitters at Walnut Creek Awards & Promotions post parade. “Golden tickets” had been dispensed so families could shop, eat and enjoy themselves until their number was called for Santa time. Sunshine Photo, owned by Mrs. Rock County Shatoria Teague, provided photography to capture memories of the Santa encounters.
El-Amin noted event volunteers were getting reacclimated and new safety precautions had been put in place to protect the public, with barricades and city vehicles blocking entry points along the parade route. Police, fire and other city staff pitched in to help with the event and keep it safe.
Girls with McNeel/Cunningham Westside Flag Corps said they were thrilled to take their flag twirling moves on the road after two years performing at the stationary event.
“This is better—we can spread out and march,” said McKenzie McIntire, a ninth grade alumni and former captain.
The girls were set to perform to “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” They said their float was filled with lights, greens and “snow” thanks to direction from their coach Sandie Storley. They had been working on the float and performance for weeks. The girls said they enjoy the parade and spending time with their coach who teaches them about the history of flag corps when not sharing her entertaining stories about life.
Keeleigh Jones of Marx Dance Academy brought a lighted float loaded with a gingerbread house, Rudolph, and cheerful children. Following the float were cloggers and dancers, giving parade watchers a sneak peak of moves to be featured in their upcoming holiday recital. Jones said it was the first parade experience for many of the younger ones.
“This is so special,” Jones said.
Parents Jennifer and Alex Quaerna of Clinton were visiting the parade for the first time with their children Phoenicks, 2, Caiden, 4, and Adam, 7. Jennifer said they usually go to the Jolly Jingle in Janesville, but heard about the event on Facebook and decided to try something new. All family members had their Santa hats on, with two of the kids bundled in blankets and riding in a wagon.
“I’m going to sit on Santa’s lap,” Alex said.
“Me too,” Caiden said.
Beloiter Jody Wittnebel was watching the parade with her dog, Wilbur. She said she loved how Beloit was big enough to have a parade, but small enough for people to find parking.
Connie Grassl and her dog, Jynx, of Janeville had dressed as elves to walk with the Janesville-Beloit Kennel Club in the parade.
“We want to get in the holiday spirit,” Grassl said.
The next holiday evening in Beloit will be Holidazzle on Dec. 2 from 5-9 p.m. More than 25 businesses will be participating in Holidazzle, offering special sales and playing host to vendors. Some shops offer refreshments and other surprises, and a trolley will be escorting visitors around town.