Thousands of people were drawn to downtown Victoria on Saturday night for the latest rendition of the Parade of Lights, featuring more floats, more lights and more people than the past couple of years.
Whether it was to continue a family tradition, for a parent to see their child in the parade or just to enjoy the spectacle of the community coming together to celebrate the holidays, thousands packed the downtown area around DeLeon Plaza.
As the time for the parade approached, parade attendees were lined up and down the route. Families grabbed their spot with collapsible chairs, blankets and, for those who couldn’t, they stood and watched, with some having little ones on their shoulders.
Various light toys were sold and children could be seen running around in excitement anticipating the show that was to come.
Among the families in attendance were the Thomas and Wendell families, each with their own reason for being there to enjoy the Parade of Lights.
For the Thomas family of Victoria, it was the first parade they’d been to in a few years. They showed up to support Olivia Shimek-Thomas, 10, who marched the Smith STEM Academy cheer team, said Victoria Thomas, 32.
“It’s good to see everyone out and about finally,” Thomas said. “It’s like the beginning of Christmas and it kind of puts you in the mood.”
Olivia was nervous ahead of the parade, Thomas said. However, as the Smith cheer team passed, those jitters were not apparent.
“She’ll be exhausted by the time they finish walking all this way,” she said.
As the Wendell family of Meyersville, the Parade of Lights was a family tradition continuing with the next generation.
Cindy and Alan Wendell attend the Parade of Lights in a tradition that started with their own kids and has continued now that they are grandparents.
This year they got to share the experience with grandson Gunnar Wendell, 2, for the very first time, Cindy Wendell said.
“We look forward to it every year,” Wendell said. “It’s very special because it just gets you in the Christmas spirit with the rest of the community.”
It was a joy for the Wendells to see everyone en masse downtown, she said.
The grandparents sat along Main Street with Gunnar in their arms, waving, pointing and sometimes getting handouts from those in the parade
Classic cars, bands, cheer teams and floats passed by, almost all lit up as if they were a decked-out home for the holidays.
Occasionally, foam and bubbles used in lieu of snow blew onto the route from floats, giving all the kids in attendance smiles as they jumped to try and grab some out of the air.
Once the parade was over, the only thing Gunnar Wendell could say about his enjoyment of the parade was “cars,” but for Cindy and Alan Windell sharing the parade with him, it was special all the same.
As the last bit of the parade passed, all those in attendance grabbed their stuff and fell into the blocks of traffic to get home, all with smiles on their faces and seemingly a bit of holiday cheer to begin the season of giving.