Dana McLaughlin, of Somers Point, makes a tradition out of her town's holiday parade - and this year was no exception. On Nov. 30, she sat at the edge of Shore Road with hot coffee, watching her family get into the holiday spirit.
But, this year, a warm beverage, scarves and hats were not vital, with temperatures reaching almost 40 degrees.
"Usually it's bitter cold. This is the warmest it's been," McLaughlin said as her children, Lynn, 6, Keelyn, 3, and Tess, 1, picked up candy canes thrown by Girl Scouts. Somers Point natives Gerry and Marie Arleth also came out to watch the parade slowly move through town.
"I like to see Santa," Marie said, while her husband flashed bare toes in flip-flops. "It's very mild. … It feels good."
Despite nonwintry temperatures, Somers Point put on its annual holiday parade, a tradition that has helped introduce the season for more than 10 years, said Sydney Perkins, community education and recreation director.
"I think it's a really nice way to bring the community together," she said. "It's really a collaboration between the schools, the recreation commission, the fire department and the police department - really all of the sectors work together to bring a really great community event together."
The parade, which began with an appearance from Mayor Jack Glasser, also featured Dixieland Christmas tunes played by the Atlantic City Jazz band, a last minute replacement for the Nae Breeks Pipe and Drums Band. The bagpipers anticipated a chilly evening, and the kilt-wearing group feared the possibility of inoperable instruments. "We were really excited about having the bagpipers here, but luckily we were able to get a really great band to come," Perkins said.
The parade was the first for the Atlantic City-based band, but the group - consisting of a few Somers Point natives - is known to play local venues, including Gregory's Restaurant and Bar, Perkins added.
And as the band passed, on came blasting sirens and holiday tunes. Members of the Knights of Columbus and Somers Point City Council waved to people lining the streets. Students in handmade floats passed out candy to young children, and members of the Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts and sports teams wearing Santa hats made their way from Dawes to New Jersey Avenue. Santa Claus, the night's essential guest, ended the parade aboard the Somers Point Fire Department's truck, leading the crowds to City Hall.
"That really was the hub of the activity," Perkins said of the parade's ending point.
Families gathered as Santa lighted the town tree. Children had the opportunity to meet him, receive a gift and of course, take pictures with elves and the jolly man himself.
"I think it was a really fun night for the families," Perkins said, pleased by the outcome of the night.
The director explained that the parade is only the start of the weekend. The following day, children enjoyed holiday crafts at the senior citizen's building and that night, adults enjoyed an "Evening of Cheer." Local bluegrass group Home Cookin' visited Bay Avenue restaurants as specialty holiday beverages, such as spiked apple cider and pumpkin pie martinis, were made available at popular spots.
"We usually do it the first Friday of December, but this was nice," Perkins said. "We kind of got a head start on the holiday season and people really like that."
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