With the temperature at freezing and snow on the ground, nature offered the Payson Electric Light Parade a perfect stage for its performance.
“It’s like 32 degrees here,” said a teenager into her cell phone to a friend.
Next to her, fires raged safely in metal pits while her family shared cups of hot chocolate to stay warm.
Cars lined Main Street along the length of the parade route. People turned the night into a party despite the cold and snow.
Running down the street a little boy sang, “Jingle bell — jingle bell — jingle bell rock!”
Some parade goers brought tall, silver propane heaters, chairs and tables. Others erected canopies with dining rooms ensconced inside. Pots of chili and mugs of apple cider steamed in people’s hands.
Impromptu snowball fights broke out.
“So anyway, how are you guys doing?” one resident called to a friend.
“It’s a good turnout already,” another said to a neighbor.
The theme of this year’s parade was Santa’s Workshop, said Cameron Davis, director of the Payson Parks, Recreation and Tourism (PRT) Department. He said the participation of business and organizations promised a wonderful show.
The parade hosted more than 50 entries, said Davis. However, at the time of the parade, due to weather, a few groups decided to cancel.
“My grandkids would have marched with the Boy and Girl Scouts, but they canceled,” said Barbara Underwood school board member and chairwoman of the Senior Center board.
The last-minute cancellations did nothing to affect the enthusiasm of the remaining crews assembling floats, however.
The Home Depot crew spent two months designing and constructing their float. A gingerbread house sat at one end and a Christmas tree at the other of their huge flatbed. Circling the entire float a little engine and car gave the float personality.
Stephanie Hunsaker, the engineer of the train gave credit to all those who worked on the float, “Tim Wiebe did the electrical. Donny Taylor put together the gingerbread house. Judy Ebarb, Tammy Philips and Joan Brainard and I hand painted all the decorations on the float.”
Two generators pumping out a combined 9,000 watts of power provided the energy to light up the float.
Across the street in another staging area, the Jones family, who runs ASAP Mobile Computer Services, put together a more homegrown entry.
A trailer the family has used as a camper, mobile office, and a llama was hauler reincarnated as a float.
“My children have raised llamas for years. They decided to enter them into the parade,” said Bobby Jones, father of the family and owner of the business.
The family has participated in the Light Parade since its inception, said Lois Jones, Bobby’s wife.
“Our entry has a candy cane theme. We’re Christians and the candy cane has to do with the letter “J” for Jesus. We’ll pass out cards with the candy cane story,” said Bobby Jones.
The family powered their float with a propane generator that gave out 2,500 watts of power.
The parade started a little behind schedule but that didn’t bother parade goers. Shops stayed open offering warm drinks, cookies and popcorn.
At the Senior Center Thrift Shop, families dropped by to browse and warm up with a cup of hot chocolate.
“How’s your hot chocolate? Looks like you’re chewing your cup rim,” said Kim Young, the thrift shop employee for the evening.
The little girl giggled and ran to her mother who browsed the merchandise.
Inside the Senior Center, director Joanne Conlin hosted a fund-raiser for the Meals on Wheels program. Diners ate a delicious meal while listening to John Kesterson play the piano.
“This is the first time we’ve done this event. We sold out the 50 tickets,” said Conlin.
After dinner, guests had a ringside seat reserved by the Senior Center under a canopy with chairs for their comfort.
The PRT department set up two announcers booths, one near the Sawmill Theatres and the other by the Oxbow. Longtime announcer Michael Rose manned the Oxbow booth announcing the entrants with aplomb.
A few minutes after 6 p.m. the parade started.
“Opening the parade is Grand Marshal Clifford Pirch!” said Rose.
As the floats came one after the other, the crowd responded with enthusiasm. But as the parade continued and temperatures dropped, more and more viewers began to stomp their feet and clap their hands to stay warm, but they stayed until the end.
As the last float went by, Rose announced, “That wraps up the 2011 Payson Light Parade. Thank you for coming out tonight.”