HOLLIDAYSBURG - A grim forecast and earlier-than-expected snowfall kept most of the crowd at home during the borough's annual Winterfest Parade early Sunday afternoon, but organizers said attendance was better than expected.
The parade, originally scheduled for Nov. 24, was postponed after a weather forecast predicted ice, snow and frigid temperatures, which Main Street Manager Jamie Baser said could have endangered float drivers and participating children.
Few groups canceled ahead of the rescheduled parade, she said, since most expected Sunday's snow to start only after the event had wrapped.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Troy Eaken and his sister, Amy Heidenthal of Tyrone, had a different take from the traditional holiday parade float theme with their ‘Christmas in Paradise’ float Sunday afternoon at the Hollidaysburg Winterfest parade.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Cody Langford, 5, of Altoona caught a lucky break by running into Santa before the start of Hollidaysburg’s Winterfest parade and gave Santa a list of things he was hoping for on Christmas morning.
But just minutes before Sunday's procession began, flakes began to fall, turning into a steady, albeit scenic, snow shower that blanketed sidewalks and onlookers with a layer of powder as the parade began along Union Street, turning onto Allegheny Street in front of the Blair County Courthouse and continuing onto Front Street, where it disbanded at Mulberry Street.
"If we had known this [heavy snowing] was going to happen before we started ... we might have considered canceling again," said Baser, but no one wanted to cancel the event entirely.
She said the Winterfest crowd normally numbers in the thousands, with people standing four to five people deep. She expected only 400 to 500 people showed on Sunday.
"The turnout was very, very low compared to past years," she said, but went "as well as we could have hoped for with this weather."
A smaller but enthusiastic crowd of mostly families lined the parade route, as children bundled in heavy coats and boots flung snow while their parents and grandparents sat in folding chairs, many covering their mouths with scarves and tucking blankets around them to keep out the elements.
Tyrone resident Shirley Bogel was one such spectator.
Sitting in a chair on Allegheny Street, a baby blue snowman blanket draped in her lap, Bogel watched as her great-granddaughter, Heaven Browning, 4, stuffed a black glove covered with snow in her mouth while waiting for the parade to round the corner.
Roads were bad coming into town, she said, but she, her boyfriend and her sister wanted Heaven to see Santa.
"We came for her," she said.
Parade-goers got a chance to see two Santas, in fact one of whom sat in swimming trunks at a makeshift beach scene with Mrs. Claus, whose exposed toes were pink by the time the float reached the Diamond.
Hollidaysburg resident Brandi Lucas also said she braved the wintry weather because she wanted her daughter, Madison Lucas, 5, to be able to enjoy the parade.
Lucas said she's only missed a few parades in 33 years, and wants the tradition to be carried on through her family, although she decided against bringing her 16-month-old daughter, Mia, out into the cold weather.
Madison said she was cold, but looked forward to seeing Santa and catching candy.
One of the candy throwers, Baret Monahan, 9, with Cub Scouts Troop 332 of Hollidaysburg, said he had a good time participating in his second Winterfest Parade.
After his part in the parade was over, he returned to the Diamond with his dad, Bart Monahan, to collect excess candy thrown from parade floats.
He said he liked handing out candy better than collecting it.
"I can't really eat it all," he said, Frooties peeking out of his coat pockets.