ARLINGTON — Olympic Avenue was packed with spectators on Saturday, Dec. 1, as the city of Arlington hosted its annual Hometown Holidays parade and celebration downtown.
Hometown Holidays boasted holiday music, Victorian singers belting out Christmas carols, an old-fashioned bake sale and, of course, a parade featuring Santa Claus himself.
“I love the whole day,” said Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert. “I love the happy smiles on the merchants’ faces and all the kids who are out here today. It’s great.”
The event also included the Carbajal family blood drive in the City Council Chambers, as well as the second annual Handmade Holiday craft market, hosted by the Arlington Farmers Market, which featured handmade arts, crafts, gifts and decorations from local merchants.
The most popular event of the day was the holiday parade, which boasted hundreds of parade participants including five drill teams, three choral groups, two nativity scenes and even a walking Christmas tree.
Local Girl Scouts of America troops performed a holiday dance routine, as did the Arlington School of Dance members. Local Boy Scouts of America troops made their way through the procession, led by one scout driving a holiday-themed Power Wheels vehicle.
Members of the Bark N’ Time 4H Dog Club made an appearance along with several of their four-legged friends, including a popular family of Great Danes and a Rottweiler disguised as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
The Old Bags of Arlington followed the fire truck leading the parade and handed out toys and candy to children on the sidewalks. A small angel rode through with the First Baptist Church and tossed handfuls of candy into the crowds.
Although some parade members gave away free sweets, Santa Claus was still the man of the hour, waving to children as he followed the crowd through the parade in a horse-drawn wagon.
After the parade was finished, Santa hunkered down in a cozy chair by a decorated Christmas tree in the gazebo at Legion Park to hear the wishes of hundreds of local kids.
Six-year-old Finnegan Bowman grinned as he asked Santa Claus for a Super Friends toy, while his mother Sandra Andress looked on.
“We came here because we have friends at the market, but it’s actually our second time,” said Andress. “We like how it’s a nice small-town celebration.”
Following the parade, spectators were allowed to hop onto Santa Claus’ horse-drawn wagon for a free ride through the streets, and the rides were still going well into the afternoon.
“The free wagon rides are really popular,” said Sarah Lopez, Arlington’s recreation manager. “There are so many different community groups doing things during Hometown Holidays, it’s definitely a group effort. We have lots of help. Lifeway Church is helping, and the Kiwanis Club is here. It’s great.”
A crowd gathered at the Legion Park gazebo at 4 p.m. for the city’s tree lighting ceremony. They began by singing several holiday tunes, such as Jingle Bells and Jingle Bell Rock, while the Kiwanis Club set up a fire pit for roasting marshmallows for s’mores. Santa Claus and Tolbert plugged in the tree lights together, and as the bulbs lit up the crowd cheered. The duo returned to the gazebo for an outrageous holiday sweater contest where the winners received prizes from Action Sports for donning the most festive outfits.
“This whole event is great on two levels,” said Tolbert. “It reminds us all of why we love this community and the small-town atmosphere and it’s great for small businesses. It’s great hometown event — you can shop, eat and take a sleigh ride with your kids.”
Santa will return to Arlington on Saturday, Dec. 8, and Saturday, Dec. 15, for photo-ops at the co-op. Both Saturdays will also offer Victorian singers, holiday music and free wagon rides.