WILKES-BARRE – The red hat and suit, white beard and the blaring of the song Must Be Santa left little doubt who was bringing up the rear of the Christmas Parade in the downtown.
Sitting in a chair while riding atop the last float, Santa Claus greeted thousands of revelers lining South Main Street on a sun-drenched Saturday.
The parade highlighted a host of afternoon activities from caroling to storytelling and led up to the tree lighting by Mayor Tom Leighton on Public Square around 4:40 p.m. He tripped a switch after a countdown from 10 and strings of multicolored bulbs that wound around a towering evergreen in the center of the Square glowed as the sun set.
Santa did double duty after the parade and sat for pictures to benefit the Valley Santa charity. The line of children and adults waiting to pay $5 to see him stretched halfway across the Square.
His first question likely was whether the boy or girl having their photo taken was naughty or nice.
Abbie Youngblood of Dallas would have told him her daughter. Lacey, 2, and son, Brady, 4, were good this year.
They've been nice, Youngblood said.
She and her husband, Gary, held up their children to see the marchers, fire trucks and floats pass by.
Along the parade route other parents perched their children on their shoulders for a clear view of the street.
Dave Harris of Mountain Top could see just fine from the sidewalk and watched his daughter Danielle, 6, gather up the candy given out or thrown from marchers. He held a plastic bag bulging with candy canes and other confections.
Good, said Danielle when asked how she liked the parade. The candy, she said when asked why.
She's getting ready for Christmas and has already written two letters to Santa Claus. She lost the first one, her dad said, and she wrote another.
It was hard to keep Jacob Ide still and interested in the goings-on. His father, Tom, of Shickshinny, walked with his 22-month-old son up and down the street. We're having a good time, the father said as they headed back to the meet up with Jacob's twin brother, Caleb, and family.
The parade got high marks from 8-year-old Endeya Tullis of Wilkes-Barre. She and her mother, Barbara, found a spot on the crowded Square to watch the tree lighting. Her daughter thought the parade was awesome, Tullis said.
Their Christmas would be one of giving rather than getting, she said, and spent out of town. We've got to help grandma out, Tullis said, adding Endeya's grandmother in New York was flooded by Hurricane Sandy.