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CLEARWATER'S FAMILY HOLIDAY PARADE // Families flock to parade on cool, magical night

Whether you're 8 or 80, there's still something magical about watching a parade. Friday night's Family Holiday Parade on Cleveland Avenue was no different.

Clearwater residents Anna Luzich, 92, and Bill Kulikowski, 78, were early arrivals at the annual parade, which signals the start of Clearwater's holiday festivities. "We wanted to make sure we got a good seat. We're just kids at heart," Kulikowski said.

He and Luzich, neighbors in the Doral Mobile Home Park in Clearwater, have been coming to the parades for the past six years.

"I like the bands the best, and tonight we're going to see the Doral Park Kitchen Band," Kulikowski said.

"I like everything about the parade, Luzich commented. "But, I wish I had brought my electric blanket."

Weather didn't seem to bother Rickey Seuwin, 3{, of St. Petersburg, and her friend, Jonathan Montesi, 3, of Palm Harbor. They were all snuggled up in blankets with their mothers, Dolores Seuwin and Peggy Montesi.

"I like the clowns the best because they tickle my funny bone," Rickey, wise beyond her years, piped up. "I like the candy, too."

Jonathan didn't feel like talking.

Another spectator waiting for the action to begin was Lady, "The Reindog". . . er, Beagle. She was the star of the pre-parade show as little children gathered around him to see her "reindeer ears."

"Lady loves parades," explained Chris Bailey, of Clearwater, who was standing on the curb with her husband, Dale, and grandson, Brandon Murphy, 10, of Largo.

When the parade made its way to where Lady was standing, the sounds of the sirens caused her to duck under a lawn chair. However, when she heard barking dogs _ namely members of the Siberian Husky Club of Tampa Bay, Lady was anxious to join them.

But, the enjoyment wasn't limited to the thousands who lined Cleveland Avenue to see the parade. There was a lot of excitement on the part of one little girl in the parade, April Stratemeyer, 4{, daughter of Debbie and David Stratemeyer, of Clearwater. She didn't seem to mind that she was in a wheelchair.

April, a kindergarten student at Suncoast Christian School, was born with a missing ankle joint and part of a leg bone. Two major surgeries and several minor ones in her young life have brought her a lot of pain. To top it off, she broke her leg last spring.

"When April was recuperating from her latest surgery, she told me she wanted to march in a parade," said Mrs. Stratemeyer, who is also the founder of MOPS _ Mothers of Pre-Schoolers. "So, we organized a group to march in the parade and here we are."

"I really like to throw Tootsie Rolls to the other kids," April said. "It's fun."

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