Lighted Christmas Parade sets holiday mood for city
Dec. 3, 2011 at 6:03 a.m.
136 Parade entries, about 70 floats and 66 bands
Between 20,000 and 25,000 people
Most creative: Crossroads Veterinary Clinic
Best use of lights: Guardians of the Ribbons
Most spirited: The Victoria Fire Department
Most use of lights: Genesis Center Kids for Christ
Best sounding middle school band: Pattie Welder
Best sounding high school band: East High School
Laticia and Stephanie Ayala huddled under the street light at the corner of East Constitution and North Main streets as they waited for the parade to start.
Although Laticia Ayala, 40, moved to Victoria when she got married in 1989, neither she nor her daughter Stephanie, 17, had ever attended the Lighted Christmas Parade.
But this year, Stephanie's friends were going to be on the Victoria East Theater group float.
"I'm looking forward to seeing my friends on the float," Stephanie said as she stroked her long dark braids.
Stephanie noted the decorations on DeLeon Plaza were different than in previous years.
"They've added more lights," her mother said. "They are really pretty."
The parade exceeded their expectations.
"I didn't expect to see so many people - or so many floats," Laticia said.
Danielle Williams, who helped organize the parade estimated between 20,000 and 25,000 people lined the streets to watch.
"I think it's better than last year's," Williams said. "There are more floats this year, and definitely more people."
Stephanie and her mother hiked from the nearest parking spot - four blocks away - to join the throngs of spectators pressing to see the lighted vehicles and marching bands.
Stephanie pulled out her phone and prepared to record video of the parade as an official motioned people to move back from the road, away from his four-wheeler.
When the parade began, they said it was larger than either of them had imagined. Their faces reflected excitement when the lighted fire trucks drove by.
The first round of motorcyclists roaring their engines caused Laticia Ayala to wince and cover her ears, but she was especially impressed by the younger cheerleaders as they did somersaults.
As the parade progressed and the people pressed in tighter, Stephanie removed her warm pink coat.
When the float carrying Stephanie's friends passed, she waved excitedly. Her friends appeared too nervous to wave back, but they got together after the parade to talk.
Other than seeing her friends in the parade, Stephanie said her favorite part was little cheerleaders.
"They were so cute as they somersaulted down the asphalt," Stephanie said.
A contented smile adorned Stephanie's face as she soaked in the rest of the parade.
"I thought there was going to be a lot more Santa Clauses," Stephanie said.
But it made his appearance at the end even more special.
"It made me feel as if I was a 5-year-old again," Stephanie said. "I'm glad I came."