A relentless drizzle and temperatures in the low 40s weren’t enough to knock the Christmas spirit out of about 3,000 parade-goers Saturday morning in downtown Akron.
Spectators lined both sides of Main Street, three or four deep in some places, as more than 75 units slogged through the rain in the city’s annual Welcome Santa Holiday Parade.
Although the event is a longstanding local tradition, there was nothing remotely provincial about it. Among the spectators was a woman from Cleveland Heights who said she makes the trip often because nothing in Cleveland matches up.
“We come here because it’s a very nice family occasion for the Christmas holidays,” said Kathie Demetz. “We have a lot of nice Christmas activities in Cleveland, but we don’t have a nice parade like this.”
She was sitting in a folding chair between her grandchildren, Sammy Grace, 4, and Bear Grace, 2. All three wore Santa caps. Bear wasn’t quite as enthusiastic as the other two, occasionally nodding off in his stroller.
Older kids along the route scampered around in the rain, fishing candy out of puddles.
Parade announcer Jasen Sokol of WAKR (1590-AM) noted early on that the day coincided with the big Ohio State-Michigan football game. His call of “O-H” elicited a boisterous “I-O” response from those near the main stage, located in front of KeyBank, directly across from Lock 3.
Someone else suggested adding a cheer for another hometown favorite. “What about the Zips?” yelled out a woman across the street.
Sokol immediately jumped onboard, pointing out that the University of Akron is bowl-bound after Friday’s win over archival Kent State. The enthusiastic Zip fan also was an out-of-towner — the mother of redshirt freshman Hayden Grover, a long snapper from upstate New York.
Grover’s mother, Kim, and father, Jeff, made the 5½-hour drive not only to watch Friday’s game but also to watch their son sing with Nuance, UA’s all-male a capella group, which took the stage at the close of the parade.
The Grovers have become huge fans of the school and the city.
“We’re thrilled,” said Jeff. “Coach [Terry] Bowden’s done a great job. We’ve fallen in love with the city of Akron and the whole Akron community. It’s been an overall positive experience for our son here.”
Nuance performed briefly before hiking across the street with Santa. Yes, Santa arrived on schedule despite the absence of snow.
Although no reindeer were visible, the hourlong parade included horses and dogs and elves, oh my.
The units spanned the spectrum, from unicyclists to police and fire to private contractors to classic automobiles to public officials to dancers and marching bands of all ages.