There is just something wonderful about a parade. I don’t know what it is, but I never get tired of watching a parade. It doesn’t matter what kind of parade it is. I always enjoy it. I especially like the night parades with the lighted floats. 

Watching a parade is a lot of fun, but it doesn’t compare to the excitement of actually being a participant in the parade. During my lifetime I have been in quite a few parades. At the Christmas parade in my hometown, I marched with my dog, rode my bike, marched with the cub scouts, the school band and rode on school and church floats. I never missed an opportunity to be in the parade. As an adult, I have marched with several politicians to show my support. 

But for an experience you will never forget, try marching in a parade as Santa Claus. 

My family and I love to portray Santa. My son Jaydon is elf Ebenezer Sugarcane, my wife is Mrs. Claus, and I become St. Nick. We do our best in December to make appearances in as many places as possible, but we’ve never been in a parade.

We decided we wanted to march in this year’s Arkalalah parade. We knew we’d need a bunch of candy, so we bought as much as we could afford. It was too heavy to carry, so Ebenezer pulled it along in a wagon. We could have easily given out twice as much as we had. 

We were positioned near the end of the parade. As it turned out, that was the best place for us to be. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. After we passed by Wilson Park, I could not believe my eyes. Both sides of the street were jammed with people for as far as I could see. Later I heard an announcer say that more than 30,000 people were at that parade. 

Our plan was for Ebenezer to walk on the left side of the street to pass out candy and Mrs. Claus would be on the right side with candy. I would stay in the middle and wave at the kids. 

But things didn’t quite go as anticipated. 

The kids were thrilled to see Mrs. Claus, they all wanted hugs and were full of questions. She soon fell way behind. Ebenezer was doing his best to move forward, and he was trying to carefully ration out our candy supply. Mrs. Claus would occasionally chase him down to restock her candy bag.

I was finding it difficult to move down the street. As soon as the kids saw me, they came running from both sides of the street to get a hug or a high-five from Santa. At one point I had 20 children surrounding me, and the parade was piling up behind me.  I’d finish with one group, take a few steps and then be swarmed by another group of kids who wanted to let Santa know they loved him. The most amazing thing, I was hugged by hundreds of kids, but hardly any of them asked for a single thing, they just wanted to be with Santa.

By now my elf and my wife had moved almost half a block ahead of me. The parade was still being held up behind me as group after group of kids ran out to meet me. I was falling way behind rest the parade. I took off at a slow trot hoping to catch up, but I didn’t get far. As I hurried down the street, I was waving at a group of excited kids on my left, when a group of children on my right ran in front of me. I had to struggle to stay on me feet. 

I almost fell several times. 

Security personnel were stationed all along the parade route. One of them joined me, patted me on the back and said she was there to give me an escort. 

“Santa can’t tell the kids to stay out of the street,” she said. “But we can. We’ve seen you almost fall several times, and we don’t want you get hurt.”

I was more concerned about the possibility of accidentally hurting one of the kids.

We proceeded down the street, and I was handed off from one escort to another. I was finally able to catch up to the rest of my group. Ebenezer said he was about to run out of candy, and Mrs. Claus looked like she was more than ready to reach the parade’s end. 

But Mrs. Claus also told me that each time she felt like she had gone as far as she could go, a small child would look at her with so much awe and love, motivating her to keep going. 

“The look on their little faces, and the excitement in their eyes, that’s why we do this,” she said. 

It had been a long walk. We were all exhausted, thirsty, and felt like we were being roasted alive inside our costumes. We brought water with us, but just never found an opportunity during the parade to drink it. 

When we reached the end of the parade, we headed for our car. We were more than ready to be home and out of those hot costumes. Of course, we met a lot of kids on the way, and Santa always stops to talk to kids. Ebenezer passed out more candy and Mrs. Santa was still passing out hugs.

We all agreed that it had been a long, hot and tiring walk, and we were glad it was over. But we also agreed that it had been a lot of fun, and we wanted to do it again next year. 

If you want to know the truth, we’d do it again tomorrow.

Have a safe and happy Halloween. We’re getting ready for Christmas.

I hear there will be another parade on Dec. 1. We’ll be there.

CourierTraveler reporter John Shelman can be contacted at (620) 442-4200 or reporter@ctnewsonline.com.

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