LOWELL | Her mittened hand held high, 5-year old Kayden Karlson waved as brightly-lit floats passed by Friday.
Nestled between her parents, Nicole and Wes Karlson, and grandparents Tina and Doug Karlson, all of Crown Point, Kayden said she had hot chocolate to keep her warm during the family's traditional, annual visit to the Lowell Parade of Lights.
The Karlsons had plenty of company along the sidewalks of the historic downtown district as folks braved the cold in high spirits to view the parade and its 29 entries.
"Oohs" and "aahs" were heard as the Lowell First Assembly of God entry, complete with winged angels in white fur atop horses, rode by.
"Aw, look at the dogs," said Andrew Buchler, 9, of Lowell, as he stopped to pet one of the Freedom Bark Park canines wrapped in bright lights that walked by with its owner.
Bundled against the cold in his grandmother's lap, Dylan May, 3, of Lake Village, waved and said, "Merry Christmas" as the Lowell Middle School cheerleaders clapped and danced. Grandmother Roxanne May, of Lowell, said she's been bringing Dylan and now his 1-year old sister Addyson since they were born. Their parents, Caroll and Bruce May enjoyed the parade, too.
The bright yellow school buses of the Tri-Creek School Corp. glowed as they passed by wrapped in holiday lights. Employees collected nonperishable food items for the local food pantries as they traveled the parade route.
As the strains of "Feliz Navidad" wafted through the air, the crowd saw the popular, dancing horses and the riders of Mi Ranchito restaurant shining in the distance and a collective cheer went up.
Excitedly dancing to the music as the horses drew near, 6-year old Isabella Funk ran to meet them, but was stopped in her exuberance by her father, Ted Funk.
"She loves them," he said. He and the family moved to Lowell five years ago and they have attended the Lowell Parade of Lights every year since.
The parade is a tradition for many families including the Hickeys who treated the crowd to another delightfully lit Merry Christmas wish. The Lowell family's entry featured lit four-wheelers and colorfully clad kids pulled on skates.
The hit of the parade, of course, was the arrival of Santa Claus given a fervent welcome from emcee Don Holt.
The Jolly Old Elf helped to officially light the town Christmas tree and joined in the holiday music from Lowell High carolers and band members.
Santa then greeted children at Lowell Town Hall where families enjoyed cookies and children relayed their wish lists.
The day's events were sponsored by the Lowell Parks Department, Lowell Chamber of Commerce and the town of Lowell.