Christmas parade draws crowd despite frightful weather

Santa, proposal headline parade

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The weather outside was frightful and the crowd was smaller than usual, but the paradegoers who attended Washington’s annual Christmas Parade and Light Up Night said the event was delightful.

Snow fell steadily Friday night as an estimated 1,600 people watched a procession of marching bands, floats and dance troupes make their trek down Main Street.

“We love coming to the parade, and we weren’t going to miss it because of the snow,” said Lorri Jankowski of Canonsburg, whose 7-year-old daughter, Katie, was supposed to participate in the parade with Synergy School of Artistic Dance until the dance studio pulled out of the parade because of the weather.

The parade’s grand marshal was U.S. Marine Sgt. Doug Vitale, who was badly wounded in Afghanistan in September 2011 when he stepped on a land mine.

Matt Uram, parade chairman and member of the parade’s sponsor Washington Business District Association, was thrilled that Vitale participated in the event and the annual lighting of the Christmas tree in front of Washington County Courthouse.

“It was an honor to have him serve as grand marshal. He embodies hope and optimism and resilience, and we all have a lot to learn from him,” said Uram. “He has the respect of everyone who was at the parade tonight.”

Adam Fischer of South Franklin Township, with a little help from his family, used the parade as an opportunity to propose to his girlfriend, Kayla Bell, 21, of Washington.

Fischer, 21, surprised Bell with the proposal. As she rode in a car with her two-year-old daughter, Lily Bell, who was the winner of the Tiny Miss Crucible Supreme pageant, Fischer, his mother Suzy Fischer, his cousin, Hailey May and his aunt, Hope May, held up signs that said “Kayla, will you marry Adam?”

She accepted the proposal as Fischer knelt down on one knee and the crowd cheered.

“I was not expecting it. It was a surprise. I loved it,” said a smiling Bell.

In all, the parade featured about 90 entries. Trinity and Washington high school bands, area police and fire departments and military units walked the parade route, and Christmas lights adorned trucks, floats, tubas and flutes. About a dozen units, including the McGuffey High School marching band, dropped out of the parade because of the heavy snowfall, which caused dangerous driving conditions throughout the area. A winter weather advisory was issued for Washington County and moderate to heavy snow was expected to fall throughout the evening, leaving between 3 to 4 inches before tapering off about midnight.

Uram said the parade normally draws about 4,000.

“Considering the weather, it’s a good turnout. I think it shows the spirit of the people in this community,” said Uram. “They’re still coming out to enjoy the night. We’re thankful and grateful to everyone who came out to celebrate with us. And, the snow makes it look beautiful.”

The parade, which lasted just over an hour, has never been canceled in the more than 30 years that it has been held.

One city police officer recalled working at the Christmas parade when snow, he said, “was nearly up to my knees.”

“I called the chief tonight to see if they were going to cancel it and he said ‘no, it was still going on,’” said the police officer.

Several accidents were reported, including a car that went off the road and landed in a ditch in Amwell Township and car that crashed on East Beau Street in Washington.

Several locations offered free hot chocolate, hot dogs and cookies.

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 set up a shop at 92 N. Main St.

Danielle Humphreys, 16, a sophomore at Trinity High School, danced in the parade with Moschetta’s Performing Arts Center. Dressed in a bright red Mrs. Claus outfit, Humphreys said she didn’t mind the cold and snow.

“It was cold, but I love to dance so I was happy to come out and perform for everyone,” said Humphreys. “The snow is better than rain.”

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