A steady rain didn’t dampen the Christmas spirit of paradegoers who attended Washington’s annual Christmas Parade and Light Up Night.
A smaller-than-usual crowd lined Main Street on a soggy Friday night, but they enthusiastically cheered on bands, floats, fire trucks and the arrival of Santa Claus.
“It could be snowing,” said Jan Britton of Washington. “It could be worse. It’s not cold out.”
Britton and her daughter, Jodi Berry of Washington, attended the parade with Berry’s children, Brice, 7, and Collin 6, and Berry’s mother-in-law, Diana Berry, to watch Collin’s twin sister, Lyndsay, march with her Daisy Girl Scout troop.
Brice said his favorite part of the parade was the candy, which more than a dozen parade units threw into the streets for children to scoop up.
The parade’s grand marshal was legendary Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Bill Blass, who won the final game of the 1971 World Series against the Baltimore Orioles.
Blass also led the countdown for the annual lighting of the Christmas tree in front of the Washington County Courthouse.
“Christmas traditions are near and dear to my heart, and I am flattered and thrilled be a part of this Light Up ceremony,” said Blass.
In all, the parade featured more than 100 entries - from McGuffey, Trinity and Washington high school bands, area police and fire departments and military units, to dance troupes, motorcycle clubs and an animal rescue league that walked the parade route with dogs available for adoption. Christmas lights adorned tubas, drums and flutes, trucks and all-terrain vehicles.
The crowd stood respectfully as a Fallen Heroes float honoring police officers Nathan Burnfield and John Dryer, and firefighter Jeremy LaBella passed by.
Matt Uram, parade chairman and member of the Washington Business District Association which sponsored the parade, was thrilled with the event, despite soggy weather.
“I think it shows the spirit of the people in this community. The spirit of Christmas is in every one of us, and that was evident tonight,” said Uram, who estimated parade attendance was about one-third smaller than in recent years. “We lost some people, but it was still a very successful event.”
The parade, which lasted more than an hour, has been held for more than 30 years and has grown larger in recent years.
Paradegoers had a chance to visit the Christmas train display at the George Washington hotel and to shop at Ten Thousand Villages, one of the world’s largest fair trade organizations, which had booths set up in the lobby. St. Paul AME Church and Calvary Baptist Church provided free hot chocolate and cookies.
Jack and Kathleen Egers of Washington, armed with ponchos, umbrellas and snacks, brought their grandchildren, Owen and Josephine Carter of Canonsburg, to see their first Washington Christmas parade.
Owen, 8, was eager to see the policemen, while Josephine, 6, looked forward to the cheerleaders. Both were excited to seeing Santa Claus.
“Owen asked me if it was as long as the Canonsburg 4th of July Parade,” laughed Kathleen Egers, referring to the Canonsburg celebration that is the second-largest in Pennsylvania and usually lasts well over two hours. “We haven’t been to the Christmas parade in a long time because our children are grown. I’m glad we brought our grandchildren.”