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McKeesport salutes Santa in 49th annual parade

Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - Maggie Smith, 7, and Keara Shields, 11, enjoy their view of the Salute to Santa crowd from aboard McKeesport Fire Department's river rescue boat.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>Maggie Smith, 7, and Keara Shields, 11, enjoy their view of the Salute to Santa crowd from aboard McKeesport Fire Department's river rescue boat.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - Guests of honor Santa and Mrs. Claus greeted parade watchers from atop a McKeesport fire truck.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>Guests of honor Santa and Mrs. Claus greeted parade watchers from atop a McKeesport fire truck.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - LaDonn Cousar, 1, of McKeesport isn't sure what to make of the big man in red during a meet and greet at the Palisades following the Salute to Santa parade on Saturday.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>LaDonn Cousar, 1, of McKeesport isn't sure what to make of the big man in red during a meet and greet at the Palisades following the Salute to Santa parade on Saturday.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - McKeesport Area High School students Nayelle Williams, left, and Jessica Washowich are crowned the 2013 Salute to Santa princess and queen.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>McKeesport Area High School students Nayelle Williams, left, and Jessica Washowich are crowned the 2013 Salute to Santa princess and queen.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - The 2013 Salute to Santa princess and queen are crowned by last year's honorees. From lleft are 2012 princess Maia Rhodes, 2013 princess Nayelle Williams, 2013 queen Jessica Washowich and 2012 queen Sarah Roka.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>The 2013 Salute to Santa princess and queen are crowned by last year's honorees. From lleft are 2012 princess Maia Rhodes, 2013 princess Nayelle Williams, 2013 queen Jessica Washowich and 2012 queen Sarah Roka.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - Serving as grand marshal for Saturday's Salute to Santa parade, state Sen. James R. Brewster tosses candy from a convertible provided by Tom Clark Chevrolet.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>Serving as grand marshal for Saturday's Salute to Santa parade, state Sen. James R. Brewster tosses candy from a convertible provided by Tom Clark Chevrolet.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - Sitting in the lap of her mom Carrie Betters, 4-year-old Julia Betters of White Oak eyes up a handful of bubble gum as Natalie Morgart, 4, of McKeesport reaches for it.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>Sitting in the lap of her mom Carrie Betters, 4-year-old Julia Betters of White Oak eyes up  a handful of bubble gum as Natalie Morgart, 4, of McKeesport reaches for it.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - McKeesport Councilwoman V. Fawn Walker-Montgomery and her daughter Grace Walker are among local officials and their children distributing candy to spectators along Fifth Avenue during Saturday's Salute to Santa parade.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>McKeesport Councilwoman V. Fawn Walker-Montgomery and her daughter Grace Walker are among local officials and their children distributing candy to spectators along Fifth Avenue during Saturday's Salute to Santa parade.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - With Carnegie Library of McKeesport celebrating 50 years of 'Amelia Bedelia' books, the first of which was published in 1963, library director JoEllen Kenney dresses the part as she rides through the Salute to Santa parade.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>With Carnegie Library of McKeesport celebrating 50 years of 'Amelia Bedelia' books, the first of which was published in 1963, library director JoEllen Kenney dresses the part as she rides through the Salute to Santa parade.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - McKeesport Area High School cheerleaders including, from left, Chance Robinson, Emily Strohm and Anna Chapelle show their spirit for judges in Saturday's Salute to Santa parade.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>McKeesport Area High School cheerleaders including, from left, Chance Robinson, Emily Strohm and Anna Chapelle show their spirit for judges in Saturday's Salute to Santa parade.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - McKeesport Area High School's Tiger Marching Band parades on Fifth Avenue during Saturday's Salute to Santa procession.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>McKeesport Area High School's Tiger Marching Band parades on Fifth Avenue during Saturday's Salute to Santa procession.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - McKeesport Little Tigers cheerleaders including, from right, Ariana McCarthy and Gabrielle Holloway wave their pom poms near the Salute to Santa judge's station on Fifth Avenue.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>McKeesport Little Tigers cheerleaders including, from right, Ariana McCarthy and Gabrielle Holloway wave their pom poms near the Salute to Santa judge's station on Fifth Avenue.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - The Three Rivers Model A Restorers Club fill an entire block of Fifth Avenue with well-maintained classics, one driven by D. James Heatherington of McKeesport.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>The Three Rivers Model A Restorers Club fill an entire block of Fifth Avenue with well-maintained classics, one driven by D. James Heatherington of McKeesport.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - New friendly faces in this year's Salute to Santa parade are the After-School Buddy mascots.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>New friendly faces in this year's Salute to Santa parade are the After-School Buddy mascots.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - Starting the holiday season with their friends in McKeesport, George Pambacas, Lisa Pitchford and Hannah Pitchford ride through the Salute to Santa parade representing the White Oak Recreation Board.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>Starting the holiday season with their friends in McKeesport, George Pambacas, Lisa Pitchford and Hannah Pitchford ride through the Salute to Santa parade representing the White Oak Recreation Board.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - Snuggling with the DARE program's lion mascot, Maggie Koisor and MaKenna Zuber of McKeesport check out their ride before taking part in the Salute to Santa parade.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>Snuggling with the DARE program's lion mascot, Maggie Koisor and MaKenna Zuber of McKeesport check out their ride before taking part in the Salute to Santa parade.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - Marching in the Salute to Santa Parade, South Allegheny students promote their successes with Project Polar Bear.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>Marching in the Salute to Santa Parade, South Allegheny students promote their successes with Project Polar Bear.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - Amanda Rose Bendel, 4, of McKeesport jumps into the parade line with a quick hug for the Eat'n Park Smiley Cookie mascot.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>Amanda Rose Bendel, 4, of McKeesport jumps into the parade line with a quick hug for the Eat'n Park Smiley Cookie mascot.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - Dressed as Santa's little helpers, members of Girl Scout Troop 58112 march along the parade route.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>Dressed as Santa's little helpers, members of Girl Scout Troop 58112 march along the parade route.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - Ina Jean Marton and David Spurgeon of White Oak Animal Safe Haven introduce adoptable dogs to the Salute to Santa crowd.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>Ina Jean Marton and David Spurgeon of White Oak Animal Safe Haven introduce adoptable dogs to the Salute to Santa crowd.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - Enjoying the Salute to Santa parade are Glassport kids, from left, Brian Gribschaw, 10; Mackenzie Burke, 8; Cassady Burke, 10; and Raya Jones, 10.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>Enjoying the Salute to Santa parade are Glassport kids, from left, Brian Gribschaw, 10; Mackenzie Burke, 8; Cassady Burke, 10; and Raya Jones, 10.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - Becky Abrams of White Oak breaks a wooden board for the Salute to Santa judges as part of CS Kim Karate's parade presentation.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>Becky Abrams of White Oak breaks a wooden board for the Salute to Santa judges as part of CS Kim Karate's parade presentation.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko presents a proclamation to Soap Box Derby champion Macaila Ziolkowski, an honored guest at Saturday's Salute to Santa parade. Macaila progressed to the national event after winning in McKeesport.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko presents a proclamation to Soap Box Derby champion Macaila Ziolkowski, an honored guest at Saturday's Salute to Santa parade. Macaila progressed to the national event after winning in McKeesport.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - White Oak Rotary guides Serra Catholic High School's Interact Club through the Salute to Santa parade.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>White Oak Rotary guides Serra Catholic High School's Interact Club through the Salute to Santa parade.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - McKeesport public works staff pull a holiday float designed by the Salute to Santa parade-sponsoring McKeesport Recreation Board.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>McKeesport public works staff pull a holiday float designed by the Salute to Santa parade-sponsoring McKeesport Recreation Board.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - Steel City Harmonizers entertain the Salute to Santa crowd with a selection of holiday carols.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>Steel City Harmonizers entertain the Salute to Santa crowd with a selection of holiday carols.

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Monday, Nov. 18, 2013, 3:11 a.m.
 

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 mdivittorio@tribweb.com.

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