BELOIT - It was a night of sparkle, song and Santa Friday in downtown Beloit as the 27th Annual Downtown Beloit Grand Lighted Holiday Parade kicked off the holiday season.
There were more than 40 parade entries this year, making their way down Grand Avenue, according to Downtown Beloit Association Executive Director Shauna El-Amin.
"The weather is perfect," El-Amin said as hundreds of children and adults lined the street waiting for the festivities to begin.
"And, we have something new this year. The Castle Band will be playing at the Gantry before the parade," she added.
The band of young musicians sang holiday songs such as "Frosty The Snowman," to warm up the crowds.
Brandi and Steven Pena, with daughter, Akira, had staked out their spot near the corner of State Street and Grand Avenue as they awaited the arrival of Santa Claus on the roof of the First National Bank and Trust building. But they also were enjoying some hot chocolate and other treats.
"We're very excited," Brandi said. "We have come to the parade for the last five years and it's always a good time. We got some hot chocolate and we even visited the Flying Pig."
In addition to hot chocolate being offered by the Salvation Army, there were roaming vendors selling lighted toys and novelty items.
After Santa Claus arrived and lit the trees in First National Bank and Trust Plaza, the parade soon was underway featuring trucks, floats and even horse drawn wagons, which all were brightly lit for the holiday parade.
After the parade, Santa and Mrs. Claus made an appearance at Walnut Creek Apparel and Gifts, where children could provide their Christmas gift wish lists and get a photo with the jolly couple.
Awards for best entries in this year's parade were, in the Business category; first place, Corporate Contractors Inc.; second place, Marx Dance Academy; and third place, McDonalds of Beloit.
Awards in the non-profit category were, first place, McNeel Fruzen Flag Corps; second place, Boy Scout Pack #621 and Scout Troop #621; and third place, Beloit Youth Hockey.