Wet or dry, parades sparkle in Chattanooga

Wet or dry, parades sparkle in Chattanooga

December 9th, 2012 by Shelly Bradbury in Local Regional News

Santa Claus rides a fire engine as the Holiday Starlight Parade winds down Broad Street away from the Tennessee Aquarium on Saturday. The Howard School's band led the procession, which included dancers and twirlers, dogs strung with Christmas lights, science fiction characters and Santa.

Photo by Jake Daniels /Times Free Press.

While the floats, dancers, bands, cheerleaders, flame-throwers and trucks ambled, marched or rolled down Market Street, 9-year-old Kate Rogers clicked photo after photo on her iPod Touch.

"It's really good," she said of the parade, explaining that she loved the dogs with lighted leashes and the miniature car.

She'll text her iPod photos to her friends and grandparents who couldn't come to this year's Holiday Starlight Parade, mom Nicole Rogers said.

But still, Nicole Rogers added, the technology is just a sidebar.

"Parades are just one of those things that are timeless," she said. "Even though kids now have all these gadgets, a parade still appeals to them no matter what. And they love getting all the free candy."

Thousands of people poured into downtown Saturday night for the Holiday Starlight Parade and the Lighted Boat Parade on the Tennessee River.

Paradegoers lined the streets for blocks, cheering and clapping for each lighted float, lawnmower or costumed character. Vendors hawked bright, flashing swords, and kids dashed into the street to grab pieces of candy.

Meadow Hale, 7, said she couldn't pick one part of the parade that she liked best.

"It's all my favorite part," she said, adding that this year's parade seemed bigger than before. "There were only a few floats last year, but now there's more."

Carla Pritchard, owner of Chattanooga Presents, said the organization capped the number of entries at 50.

"It was not necessarily bigger in terms of number of entries," she said. "But it did feel bigger and brighter for some reason. I think most entries had more lights, there was a lot of variety and the crowds were definitely bigger."

Treva Wright said she was surprised by the showing Saturday night.

"For as small as Chattanooga is, it was great," she said. "I've been to parades in Atlanta, and this was as good, maybe better than that."

Her 10-year-old daughter, Asia, said she took pictures with the costumed characters.

"I saw the Grinch, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," she said. "But my favorite was Darth Vader -- or maybe Frosty."

When the parade on land ended, the crowd shifted to the riverfront to watch brightly decorated boats chug up and down the river.

Sherri Lowry and Robert Murrell drove about two hours from Columbia, Tenn., to visit Chattanooga this weekend. Lowry saw the Lighted Boat Parade listed in Chattanooga Now and convinced Murrell to give it a try.

"It's actually pretty cool," he said, surveying the decorated boats. "Chattanooga is a fun town."

This is the first year the two parades were set for the same night, and Pritchard said the new format went smoothly.

"It was a little bit of an experiment, but it went so well we might consider keeping it in this context," she said. "I think the night of parades works well."