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McKeesport's 'Salute to Santa' parade keeps tradition alive

| Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, 4:42 a.m.
Santa and Mrs. Claus rode atop a McKeesport fire truck in 2011 at the tail end of the 47th holiday parade in their honor. Santa will return this year for the 48th annual tradition. Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For The Daily News
ERIN PENZELIK
TARYN PATTERSON
SAMANTHA LUKETIC
PERSONA WARFIELD
JORDAN EMI RODRIGUEZ
MAIA RHODES
HANNAH KLINGENSMITH
AMANDA KRAUSMANN
SARAH ROKA

McKeesport invites area residents to take part in a regional holiday tradition by spending their Saturday along Fifth Avenue for the 48th annual Salute to Santa parade.

The procession will start moving at 11 a.m., as more than 60 organizations, public safety departments, government officials and local celebrities travel Fifth Avenue from the marina through downtown McKeesport.

KDKA reporter Harold Hayes will serve as the event's grand marshal.

No stranger to McKeesport, Hayes was raised in the city while his father served as pastor to Bethlehem Baptist Church. He has returned in recent years as keynote speaker for an NAACP Freedom Dinner and was guest of honor at a Noah's Ark Community Center prayer breakfast.

“A lot of times, people forget where they came from,” McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said. “That's not the case with Harold Hayes. I'm impressed with all of the good things he has to say about McKeesport. He has fond memories of this city and of Bethlehem Baptist Church.”

Hayes will be joined in Saturday's parade by other familiar faces from KDKA, along with the following: Allegheny County Sheriff's Department, McKeesport Police Department, K-9 units from McKeesport and other area departments, Bayer Corp., McKeesport council, state Rep. Bill Kortz, the Joey-O Foundation for Autism Awareness, Stephen Barry Knights of Columbus, McKeesport Recreation Board, McKeesport Area High School cheerleaders and dance squad, McKeesport Area Tiger Marching Band, McKeesport Little Tiger Cheerleaders, LaRosa Boys & Girls Club, the Heatherington family, East McKeesport Police Department, McKeesport Trail Commission, NAACP, McKeesport Ambulance Rescue Service, Boy Scout Troop 53, West Mifflin No. 1 Homeville Volunteer Fire Co., the Salvation Army, West Mifflin Area High School Titan Marching Band, the Kennywood trolley, North Versailles Township Police Department, Duquesne-West Mifflin Boys & Girls Club, Court Time, McKeesport Area High School Robotics Team, Pleasant Hills Police Department, Mon River Fleet Lions and Leos, Shriners, White Oak Rotary, White Oak Animal Safe Haven, White Oak Athletic Association cheerleaders, Three Rivers Model A Restorers Club, Greater Pittsburgh Soap Box Derby, The Daily News/Trib Total Media, Serra Catholic High School cheerleaders, the Palms at O'Neil, King's Frownie Brownie, White Oak Volunteer Fire Co. No. 1, Clairton Police Department, Clairton Volunteer Fire Department, Teamsters Local 205, Carnegie Library of McKeesport, Glassport Citizens Hose Co. No. 1, Propel Schools, Homestead police and Mayor Betty Esper, Tom Clark Chevrolet, Versailles Volunteer Fire Co. No. 1 and McKeesport Fire Department escorting the parade's namesake.

“Area kids look forward to the Salute to Santa parade every year,” McKeesport recreation director Jim Brown said. “The best part of that is seeing Santa ride down Fifth Avenue on the city's ladder truck.”

Children also will have a chance to meet and greet Santa Claus during a party at the Palisades immediately following the parade.

The children's party also will serve as a venue to crown the parade's princess and queen.

Nominees for princess are McKeesporters Maia Rhodes and Hannah Klingensmith. Maia was nominated by the NAACP McKeesport Unit. At Founders Hall Middle School, she is a straight-A student who is involved in basketball, volleyball, choir and the gifted program. Hannah, nominated by White Oak Athletic Association's cheerleading program, also attends Founders Hall. She is active in soccer, volleyball, softball and cheerleading.

Nominees for queen are Sarah Roka of Versailles, Erin Penzelik of Munhall, Amanda Krausmann of McKeesport and Jordan Emi Rodriguez of McKeesport.

Sarah, nominated by the Joey-O Foundation for Autism Awareness, is studying business at Community College of Allegheny County, for which she received several scholarships. She is active in the foundation and Versailles Volunteer Fire Co.

Erin, nominated by Serra's cheerleaders, is involved with that group as well as National Honor and Science Honor societies. She is involved with Junior Achievement and her school's Pro-Life Club. During the summer months, she works as a lifeguard.

Amanda, nominated by the McKeesport Area marching band, is involved with the school's color guard, National Honor Society and PEPP organizations. She hopes to pursue a career in forensic science.

Jordan, nominated by the NAACP, attends Pittsburgh's school for Creative and Performing Arts, where her major is theater. She studies ballet, tap and jazz at the Wilkins School Community Center. During the summer months she performs mission work in the Norfolk area through her youth group at Bethlehem Baptist.

McKeesport Recreation Board secretary Annette James said Saturday's event — everything from the parade to the party — would not be possible without its volunteers and contributors.

“I'd like to thank all of the individuals who have worked so hard in making sure that this McKeesport tradition continues, all of the donors who have brought a bright holiday memory to area children, and all of the participants for making this Salute to Santa parade once again a success,” James said.

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or jvertullo@tribweb.com.

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