Villages Christmas Parade brings out fun-loving crowd at Polo Fields

The stars just seemed to align perfectly for Saturday’s Villages Christmas Parade.

Golf carts were decorated in a variety of ways for Saturday’s Villages Christmas Parade.

The weather was excellent, with temperatures in the 70s. A slew of Villagers and their golf carts lined both sides of the parade route around the front of The Villages Polo Club.

And perhaps most important, more than 50 entries – everything from Villages performance groups to high school bands to decorated golf carts to dogs decked out in holiday garb to Santa Claus himself – strutted their stuff and entertained the adoring crowd during the hour-long event that is a longtime favorite among the residents of Florida’s Friendliest Hometown.

Captain Ann Pelle leads The Villages Twirlers & Drum Corps in Saturday’s Christmas Parade.

“We want to see all of the Christmas floats and the golf carts,” Village of Polo Ridge resident Tom Reynolds said before the biggest Christmas Parade ever held at the Polo Club started. “We’ve got ours decorated, so we thought we’d come out and see the other ones.”
Reynolds’ wife, Barbara, said she was enjoying the camaraderie among the spectators at Saturday’s event.

“Everybody is so friendly,” she said. “You just stop and talk to them and they’ll talk to you. You see the people in the floats and it’s just a great atmosphere. And it’s a beautiful day – it’s just gorgeous here.”

From left: Tom and Barbara Reynolds, of the Village of Polo Ridge, and Richard and Arline Stroke, of the Village of Glenbrook.

Arline and Richard Stroke, of the Village of Glenbrook, came to the parade with the Reynolds and the foursome was enjoying an almost tailgate-like atmosphere as they shared their homemade brownies with two hungry passersby.

“Today is just fun,” Arline said. “To see all the floats and decorations and to be with friends on a beautiful day like this, there’s nothing better to do.”

The large crowd at Saturday’s Christmas Parade paid their respects to veterans who took part in the event.
Bill MacCarroll, of the Village of Bridgeport at Lake Miona, rides aboard Gary Gariepy’s tank-themed golf cart. Gariepy, also of the Village of Lake Miona at Bridgeport, is a 23-year Air Force veteran.

Richard agreed.

“There’s nothing in the world that we would want better than to be right here,” he said. “This is really fantastic.”

The former residents of New Jersey and Pennsylvania also were enjoying Saturday’s pleasant temperatures – a much different experience from the one their friends who live up North were having.

The members of Clown Alley 179 were having a blast during Saturday’s festivities at The Villages Polo Club.
Members of The Villages Sweeties Chapter of The Sweet Potato Queens took part in the annual Christmas Parade at The Villages Polo Club on Saturday.

“This is unbelievable,” Richard said. “It beats shoveling that white stuff. What do they call it, dandruff? I call it dandruff.”

Not surprisingly, the Christmas Parade also is a highlight for children of all ages. That was certainly the case for Villages Charter School students Jordan Pinkerton and Cameren and Brice Solis. The boys were busy tossing a football around and enjoying the sights and sounds of Saturday’s event as they waited to see their sisters, Briana Solis and Kaylin Pinkerton, marching in the parade as part of the school’s Spirit Girls contingent.

At left: Jordan Pinkerton, Cameren Solis and Brice Solis came to the Christmas Parade to see their sisters, Kaylin Pinkerton and Briana Solis perform as part of The Villages Charter School’s Spirit Girls. At right: Brice’s twin, Briana, poses for a photo will participating in Saturday’s Villages Christmas Parade.

“I want to see everything fun,” Cameren said. “I want to see all of the costumes and how everybody is doing this. I came here for everything.”

“I love parties!” Bryce interjected, while explaining that Briana is his twin sister.

Like young Bryce, the members of The Villages Parrot Head Club – an organization known for its generosity toward charities – also enjoy a good party from time to time. Saturday’s Christmas parade was no exception, especially for Mary McKay, who was busy making parrot balloons and going so far as to insist that one passerby wear one as a hat for the rest of the afternoon.

Villages Parrot Head members Kent and Carol Taft, of the Village of Gilchrist, brought their customized golf cart to the Christmas Parade. It features a tiki bar, a dancing and singing Christmas tree and plenty of garland and other decorations.

“I took a balloon class here in The Villages and it was so much fun,” the Village of Liberty Park resident said. “So, we decided to start handing out parrot balloons as a theme of our club.”

Fellow Parrot Heads Kent and Carol Taft, of the Village of Gilchrist, also were enjoying the morning as they showed off their golf cart, which featured a tiki bar, a dancing and singing Christmas tree and enough garland and decorations to decorate a complete house or two.

“The first year we decided to be in the Christmas Parade, I had to do something unique for the Parrot Heads,” Kent said. “We thought, ‘Why not do a tiki bar?’ So that’s what I did.”

The Villages Public Safety Department brought its restored fire engine to participate in Saturday’s Christmas Parade.
Sumter County Sheriff Bill Farmer waves to the crowd during Saturday’s Villages Christmas Parade at The Villages Polo Club.

But once that Christmas Parade was finished, Kent and Carol made a monumental decision about the customized tiki bar.

“I didn’t have the heart to take it off,” Kent said with a chuckle. “So, it’s there full-time and we decorate it for different seasons.”

“The bar works all the time,” a smiling Carol quickly added.

Members of The Villages Goldwing Association participated in the Christmas Parade with their colorful motorcycles.
The Hangar Flyers Club was well-represented during the annual Christmas Parade at The Villages Polo Club.

Once Saturday’s parade officially kicked off at noon, all eyes were glued to the various groups, floats and golf carts that slowly made their way around the polo field. Many of the performers handed out candy to children and adults alike. And all were smiling wide as they put on a show those in attendance will be talking about for quite some time to come.

“This was just fantastic,” said Ann Pelle, captain of The Villages Twirlers & Drum Corps. “So many people enjoyed watching all the different activities and groups. Everybody is so wonderful. They’re very appreciative and there was a lot of clapping.”

Dogs of all sizes were a big part of Saturday’s Villages Christmas Parade at the Polo Fields.

Pelle’s group performs in parades and events throughout Florida – they will be in the Orlando Citrus Parade on Dec. 29 – but she said The Villages Christmas Parade is her favorite.

“It means a great deal to have our team in this parade because your hometown is special to you,” she said. “That’s where your friends and neighbors are and that makes it very special.”

Mary McKay, a member of The Villages Parrot Head Club and a resident of he Village of Liberty Park, was busy making balloon parrots for children and adults at the Christmas Parade.
From left: Sumter County Sheriff’s Investigators Crystal Stuller and Michelle Balmer.
Santa and Mrs. Claus closed out Saturday’s Villages Christmas Parade with a wave and a big smile.