The holiday warmth of the 27th Annual Festival of Lights Parade unfolded so literally Saturday at nearly 50 degrees that one young man near Eighth and Washington streets in downtown Columbus decked himself in a sleeveless T-shirt and shorts.
Organizers’ predictions that unseasonable weather would boost crowd size seemed accurate, with some parts of the viewing audience standing seven and eight people deep along the end of the 1-mile route.
Yet, early in the proceedings, the Sound of North marching band gave the festivities a North Pole feel with a jazzy rendition of “Feliz Navidad.”
Mom Angela Gilles, who attends nearly every year, held 18-month-old daughter Kynzleigh Honeycutt near Eighth Street.
“She loves all the lights,” Gilles said. “She’ll start laughing and giggling when she sees them.”
The 100-entry event featured plenty to keep Honeycutt chuckling, including a small, tree-shaped arrangement of lights on a Chevrolet of Columbus truck carrying parade grand marshal and Mount Healthy fifth-grader Chelsi Dreyfus, who won the QMIX Christmas Musical Fireworks’ poster contest.
That event lit the sky after the parade.
Bethel Holiness Church boasted the first float of the night to include a Christian-themed message, featured a lighted outline of a stable and two shepherds before a manger.
At the free Festival of Lights Christmas Village Winter Wonderland inside The Commons earlier in the day, a crowd estimated at 3,500 people made the event especially busy later in the day. Some of the youngest children seemed to enjoy the holiday atmosphere, which included live Christmas tunes from a Columbus Symphony Orchestra trio.
Among those was 1-year-old Lylliahnna Leckrone, who beamed as soon as mom Ciera Leckrone raised her camera to snap a shot with her three children posed against a glittery backdrop of snowflakes. Other parents nearby broke into smiles and laughter over the little one’s animation and exuberance.
“Christmas is my favorite,” mom said, chuckling at her youngest. “I just love it.”
She planned to drive the youngsters to Millhousen this morning for breakfast with Santa at a church event.
Other children grew mesmerized as soon as they walked in the door of The Commons to be greeted by the Columbus Area Railroad Club’s model trains chugging into nostalgia. Bob Taylor operated a 75-year-old Lionel set on a metal track his Dad built for him when Taylor was a 6-year-old in 1939.
“It’s still pretty much the same as it always was,” Taylor said.
He also mentioned that he enjoys seeing children fascinated with the train models in an age of high-tech electronics.
Jasmine Haywood brought her two children, ages 3 and 8, for the third straight year.
“We just like the variety of activities,” Haywood said. “And I feel like this brings me closer to my children.
Amvets Post No. 509 staffed a booth allowing youngsters and others to write Christmas cards to be mailed to soldiers away from home. Last year, the cards were shipped to soldiers in Afghanistan. Organizers said they were uncertain where these greetings would be mailed with the help of Camp Atterbury officials.
Seven-year-old Kristin Call especially wanted to make sure and send a card “since my Dad is a soldier” and away for the weekend serving in the Naval Reserves in Chicago.
“This is very, very touching,” said Amvet member Gary Cheek.
He should know. At home, Cheek has saved cards strangers sent him in 1964 when he served in Vietnam.
Kyra Klossner, 9, made a paper Christmas wreath in an arts-and-crafts area.
“This,” the youngster said “is really special.”
It seemed to be. And it seemed that, perhaps at this time of year, it takes a village — a Christmas village and Winter Wonderland — to usher in the warm spirit of the season.
Pounds of shells of fireworks for the QMIX Christmas Musical Fireworks show
Temperature at parade time
Winter Wonderland attendance at The Commons