Under bright November skies, thousands of people jammed the city for the 83rd annual Milwaukee Holiday Parade as it weaved its way through downtown last Saturday morning.
With the morning's weather holding steady at about 50 degrees, parade-watchers shed their winter coats and, instead of huddling together to stay warm, they had a good time singing and dancing in the streets.
While the fall-like temperatures definitely made the hour-plus long experience more bearable, the unseasonable weather was still a little disappointing, in my opinion. Considering this was a Christmas parade, the temperate, snow-less weather didn't help to welcome the Yuletide festivities. Alas, I guess I shouldn't complaint too much; we all know that by the time Christmas actually arrives, the weather will become significantly colder – this is only the beginning.
Regardless, the Holiday Parade went on to delight an estimated 50 to 100 thousand people, according to the Journal Sentinel, with over two-dozen marching bands, a brigade of floats, Macy’s Parade-style helium balloons (though half the size) and, of course, Santa Claus himself.
By 9 a.m., Eric and I were headed for the parade. We found parking pretty easily, and then proceeded to find a place to stand and watch the procession. We grabbed a spot at the beginning of the route, joining the gathering of people who were already sitting curbside in folding chairs and on top of blankets. Surprisingly, it wasn’t very crowded, so we had a great view.
With horns blaring, cymbals clashing and drums banging, marching bands from area schools supplied a festive soundtrack, playing rousing renditions of some of my favorite carols like “Joy to the World,” “Let it Snow” and “Winter Wonderland.” Some bands had so many members they stretched nearly an entire city block. Others had baton or flag twirlers clad in dazzling uniforms. And, as you can see in one of the photos below, one band dressed in random costumes to add some extra pizazz.
My favorite parts of the parade included the Dancing Grannies and a 30-foot-tall penguin balloon that swayed in the face of the brisk wind; the mini Central Pacific Railroad train that chugged along with eight cars holding little kids; the schnauzers, golden retrievers, and dachshunds that wore Santa hats and obediently marched; and the hodgepodge of random characters like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Wizard of Oz clan and the Three Wise Men riding real camels.
Additionally, there were specialty vehicles carting around local officials like Alderman Bauman and Mayor Tom Barrett, and TV and radio personalities like Patrick Paolantonio and Portia Young, Cramp and Adler, and John Jagler and Gene Mueller, to name a few.
The theme this year was “Share your gift this holiday season. Volunteer.” So, parade-goers were encouraged to bring nonperishable food items, which were collected along the parade route by about 300 Johnson Controls volunteers, including employees, their families and friends, according to JSOnline.
Eric and I rummaged through our pantry before the parade and put together a bag filled with about 10 cans of soup, veggies and legumes. Everyone’s donations went to benefit the Hunger Task Force’s Food for Families, and every little bit helped, I’m sure!
Then in the midst of celebration, the crowd erupted in spontaneous cheering to welcome Santa’s arrival as he wished everyone a “Merry Christmas” over a microphone. At that time many children climbed onto the shoulders of their parents to get a better look. I really liked seeing the kid’s faces light up as they got their first glimpse of the jolly guy clad in red. It kind of brought the magic of the season front and center and made me recall those moments when I was a kid.
The parade was over in about 90 minutes and most of the spectators immediately folded their blankets and chairs and headed home. Despite the unseasonably warm weather, the parade definitely got me into the Christmas spirit as parade-watchers along Kilbourn Avenue clapped and cheered, and the unmistakable sights and sounds of the Yuletide filled the air.