The stars just seemed to align perfectly 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.
“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.”
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.”
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.”
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.
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.”
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.”