Kaleb Evans eased his way up to the side of the road and enthusiastically high-fived several members of a local marching band.
As parade clowns and costumed cartoon characters approached, the Toledo toddler quickly served up the most adorable smile a 2-year-old can muster and politely held out a little knapsack that was soon filled with all kinds of candy treats.
The boy may be young, but he’s already a well-seasoned parade veteran, said his grandmother, 50-year-old Shirley Hardison. The Blade’s 26th Annual Holiday Parade in downtown Toledo on Saturday was already her grandson’s fourth parade.
“It’s a family tradition,” Ms. Hardison said. “I’ve been going to parades since I was 3 years old. If I don’t make it, I feel very sad. I get that from my parents. They were like that too.”
Now that her own children are adults, she’s able to keep the holiday magic alive through her grandson.
“Where’s Santa?” her grandson repeatedly asked, when the parade would slow down. “Do you see him yet?”
Not only was Santa Claus in the parade, he brought plenty of friends.
Leading the way was Toledo soldier Stephanie Morris, 24, a 2007 graduate of Libbey High School, who served as grand marshal. Specialist Morris, who survived an attack on her Army training unit in Afghanistan, was greeted with a standing ovation and thunderous applause as her motorcade made its way along Madison Avenue and Adams Street.
Ms. Morris suffered serious leg and foot wounds during a June 18 attack near Bagram Air Base and is undergoing rehabilitation.
She was escorted by the Toledo Chapter of the Vietnam Veterans Motorcycle Riders, Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club, and the Patriot Guard Riders. The motorcyclists were led by a spirited Mayor Mike Bell, whose roaring bike also received roars of approval from spectators.
Adelaida Moreno of Toledo celebrated her 8th birthday by attending the parade with her parents, Mario and Erminia Moreno. After the parade, the family planned to visit the Imagination Station so their daughter could get her picture taken with Santa Claus and participate in some of the science center’s snow-themed workshops.
“We’re just out having a good time on her birthday,” Mr. Moreno, 40, said. “She wants to get her picture taken with Santa, so we want to do that. We know there’s not much time left for that.”
Jesse and Nereyda Ayala have lived in Toledo since 1970. Their three children are grown, so they don’t attend holiday parades as much as they used to — and the Christmas spirit isn’t what it once was, either, they said.
“It’s changed quite a bit,” said Mr. Ayala, 68. “People aren’t into it as much. There’s a lot of turmoil in the world. People don’t have time. A lot of it has to do with how parents raise their children. They’re not teaching their children the true meaning of Christmas.”
The parade brought a lot of laughter and smiles to the face of John Hollingsworth, who currently calls the Cherry Street Mission his “home.”
Mr. Hollingsworth, 42, who is experiencing some hard times, decided to watch the parade, hoping it would raise his spirits. In some ways it did, but in others it made him sad and yearn for better days.
“When I was a kid, I always liked to go to parades,” he said, “just to see all the activities get me in the mood for Christmas. Christmas is about sitting down with family and coming together. But not really, not this year.”
The parade, with the Taylor Automotive Family as a presenting sponsor, started at 10 a.m. at Summit Street and Jefferson Avenue and looped its way through downtown to Huron and Monroe streets.
This year’s participants included more than 100 clowns from the Distinguished Clown Corps, who distributed candy; Shriners, several choirs, marching bands, floats, costumed cartoon characters, giant helium balloons, “hospitality elves,” and members of the Marine Corps.
There were dance teams, dogs that performed tricks, baton twirlers, Clydesdales pulling a carriage, the Toledo Horsemen Club, and individual horses from Lucas County 4-H Club.
Cole Sheridan of Toledo lay calmly, sleeping through most of the parade in his baby stroller.
But events became a bit too chaotic and dizzying for the 7-week-old infant, who started crying when his parents, Tim and Danielle Sheridan, picked him up so he could see nearby clowns and a boisterous marching band.
The Sheridans’ other children, Mariah, 5, and Bella 2, were having a much better time, waving wildly, scrambling for candy, and jumping up and down as they screamed in excitement.
“We always like to bring the children,” said Mr. Sheridan, 30. “This is all about the kids.”
At 72, Jerry Williams of Toledo still feels like a kid when a parade comes to town. The retired Mr. Williams sat comfortably in his lawn chair watching the parade pass by along Adams.
“I come to all the parades,” said Mr. Williams, who insisted he had no parade favorites.
Well, maybe Santa Claus, “but I’m not sure he’s bringing me anything this year,” Mr. Williams said while a big smile spread across his face.
Was that because he’s been naughty, not nice, this year?
“I better not answer that one,” he chuckled, before bursting into laughter.
Contact Federico Martinez at: email@example.com or 419-724-6154.