LaPORTE | LaPorte on Saturday welcomed the arrival of Santa Claus during a parade that continues a comeback with, perhaps, the largest crowd in recent years.
"Every year, it's been progressing and getting better and better and better," said LaPorte resident Chris Bell, who brought his 8-year-old son, Dillon, and 5-year-old daughter, Taylor.
Several thousand people lined both sides of Lincolnway to watch the parade beginning at noon with Santa riding high inside the bucket of a fire department ladder truck waving to the crowd. He was accompanied by Mrs. Claus and Mayor Blair Milo.
More than 30 units — slightly more than last year — were in front of Santa as the parade progressed down Lincolnway and Detroit and State streets before finishing outside the Greater LaPorte Chamber of Commerce for a tree lighting.
Santa was lowered from the ladder truck and was greeted by dozens of children and their parents.
"It's always a pleasure to come to LaPorte and see all of the smiling faces. It's a great town, LaPorte," Santa said before stepping into his chalet. More than 100 children stood in line waiting to talk and be pictured with the Christmas icon.
April Pierce, of LaPorte, and her husband, Eddie, were first in line, with their 7-year-old son, James.
"He's excited," she said.
Other attractions included miniature train rides and Libby, a 13-year-old miniature horse ringing a bell next to a Salvation Army donation kettle.
Owner Barb Hooper said it took her four months to teach Libby how to ring the bell, but now she's been doing it for four years.
"She enjoys it as you can see," Hooper said.
Kay Pliske and other parents also took pictures of their children beside the horse, which was wearing a Santa hat.
"I love it," Pliske said of her first-ever Santa Parade.
The Santa Parade has long been a tradition in LaPorte, though a few years back it had lost popularity. About five years ago, organizers made a concerted effort to rekindle interest in the city's official start of the holiday season, parade units and things to do.
"I think it keeps growing every year. It's just a great event," said Milo, who felt plenty of sunshine and temperatures in the lower 40s helped contribute to the high turnout.