Downtown Jamestown came alive with the spirit of Christmas as the "Jamestown Snowball Express" parade rolled down Third Street Friday evening.
Despite chilling temperatures and an onset of fluffy white snow, thousands of area residents crowded the streets to catch the annual Christmas parade, sponsored by The Resource Center and Lutheran Jamestown.
The event began with a pre-parade concert by Jamestown Harmony Express, who performed classics such as: "Jingle Bells," "Frosty The Snowman," "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus." The barbershoppers' performance was followed shortly by the National Anthem by Sgt. First Class Keith Stam. Mayor Sam Teresi then had the opportunity to light the Christmas tree in Tracy Plaza for the 14th consecutive year.
The “Grand Marshal” Viscose Company locomotive, operated by Lee Harkness, is pictured during the annual downtown Jamestown Christmas parade.
"The tree is terrific," Teresi said. "We have a tree in Tracy Plaza every year that's as large, if not larger, than the national Christmas tree in Washington at the White House - our Parks and Recreation Department outdid themselves again. Every year a local resident donates the tree to the community for the holiday season - we hope people enjoy it."
Following Santa's arrival, the Jamestown Cycle Shop's "Snowball Drop" and fireworks show captured the attention of every onlooker. While the thunder and boom of fireworks rang through the streets, the Vitameatavegamin Lucy mural on Third Street glowed a vibrant hue. Then the parade began, and it was led by the Armed Forces Snowball Express float. Lee Harkness soon followed in the "Grand Marshal" Viscose Company locomotive.
Hundreds of floats streamed down Third Street as thousands of area residents lined the road in anticipation of what would come next. Just about every area fire department was represented, as well as organizations such as: Toys For Tots, The Jamestown Board of Public Utilities, The Jamestown High School Marching Band, Knights of Columbus, The Civil Air Patrol, Infinity Visual and Performing Arts, WCA Hospital, Chautauqua County Dairy Princess, Pepsi, Chautauqua Striders, Salon 1, Chautauqua County Humane Society, Jamestown Ice, Bounce A Lot, Chautauqua Regional Youth Ballet, and many others.
The Reg Lenna Center for the Arts marquee was also lit up, previewing the annual Chautauqua Regional Youth Ballet production of "The Nutcracker." Meanwhile, sugar plum fairies and a variety of other ballet dancers lined the windows of the Reg Studio Theater and several other storefronts.
According to Marv and Shannon Neubauer, of Jamestown, they've been attending the parade since its inception. It was a tradition for their family, and even though their kids are older they continue to go every year anyway.
"This is what Jamestown's about - it's nice to see so many people down here," Neubauer said. "We braved the cold because you see people here that you never get to see. Our favorite part is the kids - seeing happiness on their faces, the oos and the awws. Plus, people put a tremendous amount of hours and work into these floats. You might only see it for a couple seconds, but it took them weeks to put them together."
"It's exciting - the best part of the season," Mrs. Neubauer added. "It's kind of the kick off leading to Christmas."
Samantha Alemar and her parents Bonna and Stewart Westerlund, joined Jamestown newcomers Holly and Johnathan Weston near Taco Hut, across from Tracy Plaza. Alemar, who used to be in the Jamestown High School Marching Band, opted to spend the evening with her parents at the parade for the first time since she was in high school.
"I thought maybe it would be nice to come and watch it as opposed to participating," Alemar said. "I haven't been to this parade in about 10 years, and it was a big deal years ago when I was in it, so I'm curious about how it's changed. I hope they have a lot of horses, more than one marching band would be nice, and I'm really pumped for the train."
"My husband and I lived in Washington D.C. for the past eight years, and this is our first holiday season back in Jamestown," Weston added.
The Lopez family also found a spot near Taco Hut. They were really looking forward to the tree-lighting and seeing their aunt as the snow-queen, they said.
The evening concluded with a second set of fireworks, and a volley of applause by the thousands of area residents who ventured downtown to celebrate Christmas and community.
"This is Jamestown at its very best - community coming together," Teresi said. "Folks have no idea what kind of energy and effort is required to pull off a major undertaking such as this. It's literally a year's worth of work, but it's worth it when you see 10,000 people come out in downtown Jamestown."