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Published: Sunday, 12/3/2006

Mrs. Santa takes reins in East Toledo Christmas parade

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Joy Perry - in her annual role as Mrs. Santa Claus - waves to the crowd as grand marshal of East Toledo's Christmas parade. Joy Perry - in her annual role as Mrs. Santa Claus - waves to the crowd as grand marshal of East Toledo's Christmas parade.
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Santa and Mrs. Claus split up yesterday, but for good reason.

Twenty-three days before Christmas, they were in the East Toledo Christmas Parade, riding on different floats - just about as far apart from one another as possible.

Over the parade's 35 years, Santa and Mrs. Claus made it through so much together.

Back in 1997, the wind chill was 2 degrees below 0 and Mrs. Claus had strained her back earlier in the week, but she rode right beside Santa.

She stuck with him the year he showed up in pants that were way too big, although she was far more giggly than helpful in the desperate search for a pin that was big enough to hold them up.

One year, all they had to ride in was a garbage truck, but they were happy.

Yesterday, however, Mrs. Claus, also known as Joy Perry, was absolutely giddy, riding at the front of the parade in a red wagon pulled by real live black horses, while Santa sat alone on a float at the very end of the parade with his requisite, but fake, tiny reindeer.

Monica Irish, center, waves at the passing parade while her sons Joel Jones, 8, at left, and Calvin, 5, grab for free candy. Monica Irish, center, waves at the passing parade while her sons Joel Jones, 8, at left, and Calvin, 5, grab for free candy.
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She'll be back with him again next year, she promised.

But yesterday was her day in the sun.

She was grand marshal of the parade, an honor bestowed upon her for portraying Mrs. Claus every year of the East Toledo parade's history. For Mrs. Perry, who is 70, that's exactly half her life.

Truth be told, the Santas have come and gone over those years. And at least one of them held onto Mrs. Claus for more reasons than Christmas cheer and goodwill. He was, she says, scared of the ponies that pulled them.

For Mrs. Perry, however, the ponies - and the garbage truck - were all part of what she calls "an amazing ride" as Mrs. Claus.

The only thing missing yesterday was the throngs of spectators that once turned out for the parade.

Yesterday, there were almost as many people riding or marching in the parade as there were watching it.

Several longtime participants estimated about 200 people watched the parade's 40 units, which included several marching bands and baton corps. A few said there might have been as many as 300 spectators.

The number of units in the parade was the smallest in recent years as well. Sometimes, there have been as many as 60 units, according to Frank Kaspitzke and Denny Fairchild, parade co-chairmen.

River East Associates, a group of East Toledo business people, spent more than $1,000 for police, candy, and other expenses for the parade.

Perhaps it was the weather that kept people away. The temperature was 28 degrees when the parade stepped off at 11 a.m. Although the sun was bright, the National Weather Service figured the wind chill at 19 degrees.

That's significantly cooler than normal. The average high for Dec. 2 in Toledo is 41 degrees, according to the weather service.

It was so chilly that 9-year-old Clara Mahler, who was throwing candy from her aunt's River East Flowers unit, told her mother she would love to be in a parade again - but summertime would be better.

Clara said she was cold all over as she sipped hot chocolate at the end of the parade route at Front and Main Streets, where River East had 17 dozen doughnuts, 180 cups of hot chocolate, and 50 cups of coffee for the crowd.

Cardinal Stritch High School's homecoming queen, Mary-Lynn Hadley, said it was only her feet that felt frozen as she rode on the back of a convertible.

That was because, in true charm-school fashion, Miss Hadley had removed her shoes for the ride because she didn't want to smudge the seats of the borrowed car.

It was her first ride in a convertible as queen. The day she was crowned, the school's track was being renovated, so there was no convertible ride to the field as usual.

But her whole reign has been untraditional.

Miss Hadley was the kicker for the football team. The day she was crowned, she wore her football jersey and pads. And yesterday in the parade, the letter jacket she wore was her own.

Contact Jane Schmucker at: jschmucker@theblade.com or 419-337-7780.



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