WHITING — The city celebrated the holiday season in style Friday night with its annual Illuminated Christmas Parade that lit up downtown.
Many excited spectators including lots of children lined the parade route and enjoyed the event despite some concessions that were made for the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
"We changed some things up," said Mark Harbin, city director of special events. "We lengthened the parade route."
The route started at Davis Avenue near Clark High School to its destination of Front Street. Having the parade end at Front Street instead of New York Avenue allowed for better crowd spacing, and entries were confined to vehicles.
"We have no participants walking in the parade this year," Harbin said.
The traditional tree lighting ceremony that normally takes place at City Hall in conjunction with the parade also did not occur. Harbin said that had been done virtually and can be viewed on Facebook.
No cookies nor hot chocolate and cider were served at City Hall this year, and while Santa Claus was included in the parade, he was not available for the usual meet and greet opportunity afterward.
One new addition was live reindeer from Brookville, Indiana, that were positioned in front of City Hall before and during the parade to allow for picture opportunities and for curious onlookers to see what Rudolph really looks like.
The city contracts out to provide illuminated floats that Harbin said give the parade a "Disney-esque" flavor.
Harbin said the parade, which was skipped last year due to the pandemic, has grown over the years and typically draws a large crowd.
"I think it's definitely something families look forward to," Harbin said.
Pam Zabrecky, who recently moved to Whiting, waited for the parade to come her way as she stood on 119th Street.
She had witnessed the Pierogi Fest Parade and was anxious to see the Christmas Parade for her first time after her mother-in-law recommended it.
"We love little parades, small town parades, because it just brings everybody together," Zabrecky said.
Daniel Sylvester, also of Whiting, came to watch the parade with his wife and two children and is a regular attendee.
He said the kids like seeing the lights and it's always fun to see Santa.
"It seem like Whiting goes the extra mile," Sylvester said. "It's bigger than most."
The city's purpose behind the parade is not solely to kick off the Christmas season.
"We want to encourage people to visit our local restaurants and shops," Harbin said.
Those who didn't get to see live reindeer will have another opportunity from noon until 2 p.m, on Dec. 11, when they will be at the Mascot Hall of Fame, located at 1861 Front St.