BROOKSVILLE — In a sea of Christmas hats and American flags, thousands of people gathered Saturday to enjoy the 35th annual Christmas parade, "Christmas on Main Street," sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Brooksville.
"It's one of the biggest community activities in Brooksville," said parade chairman Ron Wheeles. "It's a great community project for us as Kiwanians."
More than 100 groups participated, including marching bands, churches, local organizations and businesses.
Jonathon Linstead, 12, a seventh-grader from Explorer K-8, marched in the parade for the first time as a bass drummer with his school's marching band.
Band director Tom Squiller wasn't worried about his newcomers. They'd practiced plenty, and he estimated that by the time the parade was done, they'd have played their four songs nearly 10 times each.
"Practice makes perfect," he said.
Even Ronald McDonald joined the festivities in a red and yellow striped Beetle with a large American flag waving behind it.
Dee Mills was honored for her work with Lea's Prayers and Postage, a nonprofit organization she started after she and her husband lost their son, Marine Sgt. Lea Mills, who was killed in action in Iraq in 2006. The group sends packages to soldiers overseas and has raised over $80,000.
"Once a Marine Mom, always a Marine Mom" is her motto.
Elementary student Samantha Crowley designed the parade brochure cover. She was proud to see her work on the hundreds of brochures.
"It's Santa and a tree," she said. "And me sitting on a float waving with balloons."
An Elvis look-alike sang Christmas carols from the Coney Island Drive Inn float, and folks of all ages called "Merry Christmas" and waved.
Wayne Grant and his wife, Joan, are from Vermont but spend winters at the Cover Leaf Forest RV Park.
"We've been coming for 12 years," he said. "We really enjoy this parade and we enjoy the weather."
They plan to spend Christmas at the beach with a picnic.
"We'll call our kids and tell them to enjoy the snow," said his wife, Joan.
Many, like Sheryle Brown of Brooksville, were seeing the parade for the first time. She came to see her son Myles J. Brown, 4, ride on a float as the King of Holiday Spirit.
Children and the young at heart collected colorful beads and sweets all along the parade route, which began on Oakwood Drive and wound its way into downtown Brooksville.
"The candy is terrific out here, I must say," said Chance Rosien, 13. "It's good pickings and a great parade."
Shary Lyssy Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.