MIDLOTHIAN – Parade floats, performers, cars, trucks and even musical instruments were all adorned with festive lights to shine a holiday glow on Midlothian’s annual Southern Star Christmas parade of lights Saturday night.
The show, which had a "Christmas in Wonderland" theme, capped the weekend celebrations. This was the tenth year for the Southern Star Celebration.
This year’s parade included over 50 floats, many representing youth groups as well as area churches and businesses.
The grand marshal of the parade was Tom Kowatch and his wife, Casey. Kowatch was chosen by a nominating board for his contributions to veterans' peer support groups.
Kowatch served as a combat medic with the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment, 43rd Combat Engineer Company in Iraq from 2001—09. He is a certified veteran peer-support specialist. Currently, he is serving as the program support coordinator at the REACH Council.
"Several organizations in the city come together trying to bring the meaning of Christmas to Midlothian," Midlothian Mayor Bill Houston said. "The celebration is to gather the city around to town square to bring the spirit of Christmas."
The day began with Heritage Park filled with vendors, each selling home accessories, clothing, and some advertising their services.
The other entertainment throughout the day included photos with Santa and various performances groups.
For the children, there was a bounce house, face painting, and a petting zoo.
Announcing the parade were co-hosts Brad Golden and Gina Moore.
Moore thanked the many businesses and organizations that sponsored the parade and also announced the winners of the parade competition as the floats passed the reviewing stand.
The best use of the parade theme was won by Midlothian Higher Education Center. The best use of lights was awarded to Rigsby Garden Center. Members of the Midlothian Saddle Club’s entry took home the "most original" award. Accepting the Best Overall award was a float titled, "God’s Garden," entered by the pre-school from Midlothian First United church.
Riding in a classic horse-drawn carriage was Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Mr. and Mrs. Claus, also known as Johnny and Sandi Grant, have been in the parade for each of its 10 years, as well as riding in the chamber of commerce and other parades for 22 years.
“We started 22 ago when the chamber needed a Santa Claus. I told them my then boyfriend would be glad to," Sandi said. "Then I asked him if we would. He said yes. Shortly thereafter we were married and have Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus ever since.”
‘This time of the year is very busy for us. We make appearances at schools, other city celebrations," she added. "[....] We love to entertain the kids.”