Children on this float make sure the kids watching from the sidewalks get plenty of candy during Belleair’s holiday parade Dec. 8.
BELLEAIR – It was 81 degrees at 5 p.m. on Dec. 8. In Belleair the annual Holiday Parade was about to begin. Dozens of residents abandoned their televisions at home with football games going on in snowstorms, to come out to see Santa Claus and all the other decorated floats in the parade. It was all very fascinating for Bob Goldsmith, a snowbird from Michigan.
“Eighty one degrees … wow,” he said. “You can’t beat that with a stick. I’m glad I’m here and not back home in all the snow and cold.”
Goldsmith and his wife Pat were at the parade with their grandson Ryder McKillop, 2. It was their first time at the event.
“I think this is great for the community,” said Goldsmith. “We were also at the Christmas concert last week and it was great too.”
The holiday parade has been going on in Belleair for three years. It replaced the annual tree lighting ceremony that had lost the community’s interest.
“I recall the last year of the tree lighting when hardly anybody showed, I said enough of this,” said Eric Wahlbeck, Belleair’s parks and recreation director. “We replaced it with the parade and it has been positive ever since. I think we’re getting better at it.”
Wahlbeck said something new this year was the rocket ship or at least a contraption on four wheels with an engine that looked like a rocket ship.
“All the kids want to ride on it,” he said. “So it must be a good thing.”
As the parade made its way around the mall, float participants threw handfuls of candy to waiting children on the sidelines. No one was more enthusiastic about getting the bounty than Allie Wayland, 2, of Belleair. One person described her as a human vacuum cleaner as she scooped up handful after handful of goodies, brought them to her mom and went back for more.
“She loves it, she loves it, are you kidding me?” said her mother Holly. “She recently won first place at a Halloween contest so she loves the show.”
As for the parade, dad Rob Wayland said it was great.
“We love it, it is amazing, we are very pleased,” he said.
Nearby Molly Schaffer of Belleair was just as pleased with the event. She grew up in Belleair and still lives in the community. Her two sons were participating in the parade, riding on the St. Paul’s bus.
“This is the hottest Christmas ever,” she said. “This parade is great; it gets everyone out to meet their neighbors, I love a parade.”
Christina Lehman of Largo came into town just for the parade with her son Jackson, 2. She was delighted with the whole event.
“I love it, Jackson loves it,” she said. “There are lots of kids around and he knows all about Santa so he’s excited.”
Her friend, Cathy Shema of Largo was just as happy.
“This is a very family oriented event,” she said. “It is something I’ll come back for.”
Mayor Gary Katica led off the parade riding in the back of a convertible. And as always he expressed awe over the turnout.