The vanguard of four Atlantic City police officers, alike on their purring BMW motorcycles, reached resort residents James Reeves, 11, his sister Shaka Reeves, 9, and their uncle Leroy Reeves, 31, shortly after noon.
While Shaka looked at the police officers, Leroy Reeves looked at the rest of the parade stretching down Atlantic Avenue and James covered his ears while some members of the next group, motorcyclists wearing black leather jackets stitched with “Disciples of Christ,” revved their engines.
The resort’s holiday parade drew hundreds of people who mostly stood on the sunny north side of Atlantic Avenue on Saturday afternoon while everyone from local officials and casino floats to Santa Claus himself passed by.
It was the first time the seasonal parade had been held on Atlantic City’s main drag since 1990, and is part of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority’s plans to spend $595,000 to spruce up the gambling resort in time for the holiday season — what is typically one of the slowest months of the year — and lift the spirits of people who have been through trying times.
Organizers had hoped to start at the Boardwalk and Atlantic Avenue, but October’s Hurricane Sandy attenuated that by two blocks. The violent storm also forced the relocation of the resort’s Christmas tree from the now-demolished inlet section of the Boardwalk to the median where the Atlantic City Expressway arrives in the city.
About 60 local groups and organizations had planned to participate in the holiday parade. But it had some last-minute shakeups that may have kept local officials from participating, CRDA spokeswoman Kim Butler said. The agency had to scramble after a car dealer pulled out.
When it appeared there would be no car for Mayor Lorenzo Langford and Councilmen William Marsh and Aaron Randoph, CRDA Executive Director John F. Palmieri invited them to ride on the CRDA float, but Langford declined for all three, she said.
Butler and one of the parade organizers, Charles Coyle, said a car was later made available for Langford, but Coyle said Langford did not use it.
Butler said she believed Langford did not participate in the parade. Langford did not return a call to his home seeking comment.
Miss Pleasantville Ciarra Farquharson coasted by in a convertible red Mercedes-Benz, waving genteelly as James Reeves turned his head and admiringly said, “wow.”
Soon after a jitney, labeled “Jitney Man” rolled by, doors open, playing Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” and Atlantic City’s Yellow Cab company rolled by minutes later in a school-bus yellow 1948 Chrysler Royal painted to resemble a cab. All three took it in.
A short distance away from the Reeves, resort residents Jahmyrr Wiggins, 6, Ryan Wiggins, 10 and Jahnayah Mack, 12, stood near Tennessee Avenue and incredulously watched as female impersonators from the Resorts Atlantic City show “Divas Do AC” rolled by slowly in two convertibles, waving like prom queens. The performers’ perfume could be smelled from the sidewalk, about 25 feet from their car.
The kids had been grabbing candy thrown from passing floats and cars, and Jahmyrr Wiggins revealed his stash, which included a Snickers Bar, candy canes and a packet of Smarties.
“Oh wow, look at all these kids,” said Ryan Wiggins, as several dozen kids in soft blue shirts from the Richmond Avenue school suddenly appeared and walked by.
And then finally, finally, came the highlight: the big man himself, Santa Claus, riding atop a red firetruck, waving as the truck slowly proceeded along Atlantic Avenue.
“It was good,” Jahnayah Mack said, saying Santa was her favorite. But why, she wondered, did Santa always have to ride on a fire truck?
And then, the 2012 parade was over, with streetsweepers bringing up the rear and normal traffic retaking the road while Santa and the rest carried on up the street.