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McKeesport salutes Santa in 49th annual parade

| Monday, Nov. 18, 2013, 12:35 p.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Guests of honor Santa and Mrs. Claus greeted parade watchers from atop a McKeesport fire truck.

It looked a lot like Christmas in McKeesport Saturday as the 49th annual Salute to Santa parade brought hundreds of city residents and visitors to Fifth Avenue.

“It was a great turnout,” parks and recreation director Jim Brown said. “It was a wonderful (way) to kick off the holiday season. This may one of the largest parades that I've ever seen.”

More than 60 groups and organizations participated in the march from Market Street intersection to the Shop ‘n Save market, including a few newcomers.

“It's bigger than last year, and every year I strive to make it even bigger and better,” Mayor Michael Cherepko's administrative assistant Annette James said.

Cherepko, city councilors and administrators were among the first groups, handing out candy.

“We were blessed with absolutely beautiful weather,” Cherepko. said “It's just such a wonderful opportunity to kick off the holiday season with so many people and everyone truly enjoying themselves. You always say a little prayer when you have events like this, and there's no question our prayers were answered,”

It was the first Salute to Santa parade for Brent Schmidt of Pleasant Hills and his daughter Abigail Schmidt, 2.

“I like a parade with fire trucks,” Abigail said.

Raena Bacon of McKeesport brought her son Landon Bacon, 5, to watch the festivities.

Landon said he liked the karate demonstration by White Oak-based CS Kim Karate.

Raena Bacon said her mother-in-law Betsy Bacon brought the family to their first McKeesport parade.

“I always brought my son,” Betsy Bacon said. “My kids were in strollers and then they were in the band. It seems bigger and they're more interactive with the groups. It's more fun for (Landon) to watch.”

Santa closed out the parade atop a city fire department ladder truck.

The Palisades hosted an after-party with food, balloons, and a chance to sit with Santa.

Cherepko recognized Macaila Ziolkowski, 13, of Pittsburgh, who won the Greater Pittsburgh Soapbox Derby Stock Division title in McKeesport in June and went on to win the All-American Soapbox Derby Stock Division championship in July.

McKeesport Area High School sophomores Nayelle Williams and Jessica Washowich were crowned parade princess and queen, respectively.

“I feel honored and I think it's a wonderful opportunity to be able to represent McKeesport in such a way,” Nayelle, 15, said.

She credited her selection to her “work in the community and trying to make McKeesport a better place, and the activities I'm involved in to do that.”

She is involved in the Youth CAST leadership program, the school's diversity club, a capella choir and Penn State Greater Allegheny initiatives.

Jessica, 16, said she was surprised by her selection as queen.

“It's so amazing,” she said. “I didn't expect it, and it makes me proud to represent my city and be a part of this city even more. I work a lot in the community and I can get other people involved. I'm really proud to be where I'm from, and I think that's very important.”

She is involved in the school's environmental, foreign language and diversity clubs, and helps McKeesport Lions Club.

McKeesport Area's band and cheerleaders were named the parade's best in their respective areas.

Versailles Volunteer Fire Co. had the best fire truck. Jim Heatherington of the Three Rivers Model A Restorers Club had the best antique car, and White Oak Rotary the best float.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965 or

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