Bright blue skies, white clouds and a most welcome sun towered over thousands of people who gathered on the streets of downtown Davenport Saturday morning, but most eyes were on the balloons.|
The crowd of folks, young and old, were drawn to the downtown streets for the annual Quad City Arts Festival of Trees Holiday Parade.
"It's a great way to kick off the holiday season," said parade-goer Brad Whitlow, of Muscatine.
Mr. Whitlow came to watch the parade with wife, Bobbi; daughters, Olivia, 6, and Sydney Blashaw, 18; and son, Jaran, 14.
His wife said the family came to the Quad-Cities to catch the Festival of Trees, but wanted to hit the parade first. The festival, a showcase of holiday trees and decor created by local designers, opened today in the Davenport RiverCenter and will run through Nov. 25.
"(We've) seen them (the balloons) on TV, but this is the only parade I've ever been to when they've had the big balloons," she said.
Shy little Olivia buried her face in her mother's leg, but whispered that the toys being sold by nearby vendors were her favorite part of the event.
It's nice to "do something as a family," Ms. Whitlow said, adding that with teenagers, that isn't always easy.
"(I'm) glad that we have stuff like this that we can do."
Families and friends gathered in clusters along the parade route. Grownupsheld children on their shoulders so they could catch the sights, while others sat on the ground or in lawn chairs, relaxing between balloons.
Marching-band cadences echoed throughout downtown and mixed with the sounds of shouts and laughter.Traditional red-and-white Santa hats covered the heads of parade marchers and watchers alike, as well as edgier versions of the classic hat, some with leopard print and others with purple sequins.
The crowed waved and clapped for the Wells Fargo stagecoach and horses, and the kids were delighted to see the Tom Getz Distinguished Clown Corps. Spectators cheered for the various marching bands and danced to the Christmas tunes that were laced throughout the parade.
Nearly two dozen larger-than-life balloons floated and bounced by, including an enormous cupcake; the bright, multicolored Alphonso the Dragon; Yogi Bear; and Genesis' Gus the Bus. Their handlers carefully maneuvered them around traffic lights.
"I see a clown!" shouted 6-year-old Destiny Ward. "Hey! Another clown!"
She was perched several feet in the air on top of her dad's shoulders.
"It's good that the community does this," said her dad, Paul Ward, of Davenport.
Destiny's mom, Lucy, said she and her family have attended the parade since the mid-1990s. Her favorite part, she said, is the balloons.
The kids "enjoy it; I enjoy it; we all enjoy it," she said.
"I just love it," added Mr. Ward's mother, Barbie Ward.
Mr. and Ms. Ward's son, Tony, 9, was nearby, eagerly awaiting each marching band."He loves the drums," said his grandmother.
"They're cool," Tony said, as he explained how the drummers hold the drumsticks to make the music."I love the cymbals," too, he said.
His sister shouted from their father's shoulders. "Tony! Guess what I see! Rudolph the Red- Nosed Reindeer!"Tony turned to see the gigantic reindeer balloon floating high above the street.
The two also were excited to see the enormous ice-cream-cone balloon."It looks good," Tony said. "It even has candy canes inside!"
Like many parade-goers, the Wards were thankful for the sun."It's a great day to have a parade," Mr. Ward said.
"It's really nice this year," added his mother.
Soon, the enormous Jolly Ole St. Nick balloon waved by. As it passed, aswarm of nearby kids chanted, "San-ta! San-ta!" in unison, eager to see the jolly, bearded man in the flesh.
They didn't have to wait long.
"It's Santa Claus!" one little boy shouted."There's Santa!" yelled another.
Soon, Santa himself arrived, and those who lined the streets applauded, whistled, waved and snapped photos.
"Ho, ho, ho!" Santa shouted, rubbing his belly and waving to the crowd."Merry Christmas!"
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