It was a chilly night for the eighth annual Electric Light Parade, but all along Main Street you felt warmed by the glow of faces, wood-burning chimineas and thousands of strands of Christmas lights burning bright.
Some 40 floats cruised down the street decked out with Christmas trees, twinkling stars, presents, candy and snow, but the highlight of the show, besides Santa Claus, was the undefeated Longhorn state football champions cruising by on a flatbed trailer. The team, after having made it to the end of the street, jogged back down the street, showing up all the other floats in one last victory lap.
Besides the Longhorns, four other floats were crowned winners at the parade for their creativity, appearance and theme.
Winner of the big business float award, Mazatzal Hotel and Casino, had a flatbed decked out as Santa’s Workshop, complete with elves making toys just in time for the holidays. Casino marketing assistant manager Lanell Hooke said it took 20 people more than 48 hours to put the float together. The casino has participated in the event every year, taking home second place but never first.
“We do it ’cause we love it,” Hooke said. “This is the best float so far.”
Hooke commented that the weather this year was great compared to past years when the floats would be covered in snow, hiding all of the group’s hard work.
Scott Flake, who helped start the parade eight years ago with the economic development committee, said four years ago it sleeted much of the night, creating a soggy mess, but it felt more like Christmas.
Payson’s First Nazarene Church was crowned victor in the nonprofit category with a multi-generational float. Comfy sofas filled with church members from three generations lined the trailer. Child Pastor Char Bradford said it took two to three days to put the float together.
“This shows that faithfulness goes from generation to generation,” Bradford said.
Western Village won in the small business category and the Wells Borges and Wick family won the family category.
There were only a few hiccups in the Main Street Home Town Holiday parade, including the United Pentecostal Church’s pickup stalling out briefly and killing the lights on its puppet show.
Puppeteer Brianna Macnamara, 13, said she and a friend use the puppets to dance around to church music, under black lights, which give a special effect.
“It is hard work to sync with the song,” Macnamara said. “You have to know the song really well.”
Another notable entry was the Girl Scout Daisies and Brownies who walked down the street as lit up snowflakes. Father of 5-year-old twins Jennifer and Heather, Derek Jones said both girls were excited to participate as first-time Daisies.
“I had to button their battery packs on them because they were bigger than their pockets,” Jones said jokingly.
Main Street Promotion Chairman Minette Hart said the parade went very well, with beautiful weather and a fantastic crowd.
“The comments from the people on the street I spoke with thought the lights were the best yet,” Hart said. “There was some concern from the entrants regarding the judging starting before it was dark, but three of the winners were judged in the light of day.”
Judges included Su Connell, Doc Holiday, Bruce Wales, Barbara Ganz and Bobbie Jo Haught.
This year’s parade will be hard to beat, because it’s not every year, you have state champions riding shotgun to Santa.