CARBONDALE - The smell of evergreen and the sounds of Christmas carols filled the air as crowds packed into downtown Saturday evening to take in the annual Carbondale Lights Fantastic parade.
Photos by Amanda Whitlock
The event more than lived up to its name as lights adorned not only floats and trees but also children and dogs. Carbondale police said they did not have an estimate on the size of the crowd but, at three to four people deep for block-long stretches of Illinois Avenue, it appeared to meet last year's estimated size of 10,000.
Temperatures in the lower 50s meant cold toes and fingers were scarce, but that didn't stop many from bundling up with blankets, wool caps, mittens and scarves.
People began setting out folding chairs and laying down blankets along Illinois Avenue early in the afternoon in anticipation of the event.
Tucked in the bed of their truck parked near the Civic Center, Greg Borowitz, his wife, Becky, and daughters, Hannah, 12, and Berget, 5, had one of the more comfortable looking setups and a fine view of the parade.
"We parked and left the truck here at about 2 this afternoon," Greg explained.
"We learned our lesson one year when we sat on the sidewalk and we were very, very cold," Becky added.
Near the pavilion on the northeast corner of Illinois Avenue and Main Street, children were lining up to get their pictures taken with Santa and Dasher, a 5-year-old reindeer from Alaska.
Dasher's owner, Bill Light of Bethel, Mo., said kids tend to love Dasher and the feeling is mutual.
"He just loves getting out in the crowd," Light said. "He loves kids and dogs and he'll do anything for a graham cracker."
Just yards away from Dasher and Santa, Coty Herring leaned down examining her photos, and worked to corral three boisterous children.
"This should tell you how I am doing right now," she joked of her heavy breathing. "But it's fun. How often do you get to see a reindeer? I am 28 and this is only my second time."
Making her way through the crowd while holding her grandson, Riley, Carterville resident Susan Crain said the parade has been a tradition in her family for years.
"This is his first parade," she said of Riley, who will turn 1 year old on Friday. "We just came to let him see the floats and the lights."
Crain's daughter and Riley's mom, Amanda, said she has been coming to the parade since she was a little girl.
"We're going to make it a tradition for him now," she said.
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