nolan Thomason photo
Santa and Mrs. Claus heard requests from many youngsters Saturday following the annual Christmas Parade and tree lighting at Stevensport Square in Rhinelander.
12/5/2017 7:30:00 AM Santa receives warm welcome at Christmas Parade, tree lighting
Kayla Breese Feature Writer
With temperatures in the 40s, it didn't exactly feel like Christmas Saturday afternoon when crowds gathered in downtown Rhinelander for the annual Christmas Parade and tree lighting, but holiday spirit filled the air just the same.
The parade started at the Rhinelander Police Department and traveled down Brown Street, past crowds of eager children and their parents, to Stevensport Square. New snowflake lights adorned the poles on part of the route.
This year's parade theme was "Celebrating Holiday Movies" and three floats were crowned winners, each earning a $100 prize.
Northland Insurance Agency was deemed most creative with their float National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Rhinelander Furniture won "best movie portrayal float" with Charlie Brown Christmas, and Hanson Garden Village won "most holiday spirit" with Home Alone for Christmas.
Following the parade, the revelers headed for Stevensport Square for the tree lighting and to visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
"We had really warm weather which really was a bonus for everybody coming down, it wasn't frigid like the last two years," said Lauren Sackett, event coordinator at the Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce. "We had a great crowd of people down here at Stevensport Square."
"It's a great time for the kids to be around Santa," she added. "We do the tree lighting and I think that adds to Santa being here and then they get plenty of time to visit with Santa and talk to him and Mrs. Claus and we're really grateful that they could join us year after year."
Santa pronounced the parade and tree lighting a success.
"The parade this year was quite larger than Santa remembers the last couple years, due to the nice weather and whatnot," he said.
He estimated 40 to 50 children visited him this year. Their requests ranged from dolls to monster trucks, a horse and a puppy. "We've got a little more spread out type of presents this year," he said.
Most of the children were excited to see the man in red. Only a few of the very little ones declined the chance to sit on Santa's lap.
"For the most part this year all the children there were open, coming talking to Santa, not too many criers this year so that was good," he said. "They were very well behaved this year, a nice little line this year."
Mrs. Claus was pleased to see the addition of a lit walkway for families to walk down to see them.
"A lot of good organization, a lot of light, it was good with the glow sticks," she said.
Chloe Sparks enjoyed talking to Santa. She requested a stuffed animal horse, ice skates and a skateboard for Christmas and noted that the Charlie Brown float was her favorite part of the parade.
"I think this is a good time for kids to learn about Christmas," she said.
Brian Dean took his granddaughter Sophia Dean to the event.
"(The parade) was beautiful, they did a wonderful job this year," he said, adding that he expected his granddaughter to ask Santa for a new bike.
Tony Jones, senior warden, Rhinelander Lodge # 242, was pleased with the turnout for the event.
The Lodge has opened its doors open and offered refreshments during the last few tree-lighting ceremonies, but this was the first time they had the Rhinelander Community Band performing in their basement.
"This is fantastic for us, our lodge is right across the street so it's the perfect opportunity for us to help the community share in the Christmas celebration," Jones said.
Sackett is thankful to sponsors Hildebrand Funeral Home, Culvers of Rhinelander and Peoples State Bank, which donated the $100 prizes for the three winners.
The hot chocolate was donated by Big Daddy's.
Kayla Breese may be reached at email@example.com.
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