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Santa arrives in a blaze of light

| Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, 12:27 a.m.
Nicholas Kinter, 5, of Ford City, enjoys cotton candy while watching his sister perform during the parade during Light Up The Night in Vandergrift on Friday November 23, 2012. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch
David Greenlee Jr., who currently resides in Washington DC but grew up in Vandergrift, checks the electrical ballasts on the Ross Pharmacy building owned by his father, David Greenlee Sr. during Light Up The Night in Vandergrift on Friday November 23, 2012. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch
Addison Turksy, 5, of Apollo, blows a kiss to the crowd while performing a song with fellow dancers with Just Dance during Light Up The Night in Vandergrift on Friday November 23, 2012. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch
(lefto to right) Angela Plazio, 12, of Allegheny Township, Megan Tipton, 11, of North Apollo, and Tessa Vakulick, 14, of Leechburg, huddle together and are illuminated by a cell phone light during Light Up The Night in Vandergrift on Friday November 23, 2012. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch
Children attempt to catch falling leaves during a strong gust of wind during Light Up The Night in Vandergrift on Friday November 23, 2012. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch

Santa Claus rode into Vandergrift perched high atop a bucket truck bedecked in twinkling white lights above the several thousand people who jammed Grant Avenue on Friday evening for the town's annual light-up night and parade.

With leaves swirling from strong winds that stripped the last remnants of autumn, the crowd assembled in front of Carino's Restaurant at Grant and McKinley avenues, where local children danced and Christmas carols competed with calls for hot chocolate.

Vendors selling an array of food such as roasted nuts and other goods were doing a brisk business.

“It's fast and furious,” said Marlene Herrick of Parks, who was selling handmade shawls and scarves.

It's the fifth year that her business “Another Knit Wit” set up a booth along Grant Avenue for the festive community celebration.

In fact, event organizers continue to add to the festivities.

“There's more crafts and more food. We keep trying to make this celebration bigger each year,” said Julie Martin, chairwoman of Vandergrift Improvement Program.

Additions this year included live dance and entertainment an hour before the parade blew into town “to give people something to do besides just waiting for the parade,” she said.

Parade marshals were Steve DelleDonne, borough secretary, and Missy Holmes, assistant secretary.

“We wanted them to know how much we appreciate them,” Martin said. “They get gruff from both sides — council and the public — and they do so much for the community.”

DelleDonne and Holmes were whisked through the parade by a horse-drawn carriage from Wolfe Dream Carriages in Allegheny Township.

A bevy of floats with elves and snowmen waving to the crowd peppered a long line of fire trucks in holiday finery from a number of neighboring communities.

Allegheny Township's emergency vehicle featured Kermit the Frog waving to the crowd.

But the show stopper might have been the two lively dalmatians outfitted in red harnesses and vests riding in a truck from the George McMurty Fire Department, Vandergrift No. 1, topped, of course, with a blow-up dalmatian.

Martin noted a bumper crop of floats that included Snoopy riding on top of a classic Checker cab.

Another crowd pleaser was the Kiski Area Cavaliers band trailer, which blew clouds of bubbles as it moved down Grant Avenue.

The parade is becoming more popular, according to Michele Shoemaker, of Parks, president of the Laurel Point Elementary School PTA.

“The kids have a blast,” she said. “Every year, more kids want to walk in the parade.”

This year's theme was “A Christmas Story” theme, and Shoemaker estimated that 70 students marched.

But who's counting?

For Bob Britten of Morgantown, W.Va., it wasn't the number of fire trucks but their flashiness without the horn-blowing that kept his 2-year old daughter, Thessaly Troilo, happy.

Britten, who was visiting family in Lower Burrell, said, “This is great. We were visiting and thought we'd see what was going on.”

Mary Ann Thomas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4691 or mthomas@tribweb.com.

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