Bismarck residents, as well others from throughout the Parkland, began gathering along Center Street a full hour before the start of Saturday's second annual Christmas Parade, which once again delivered a number of holiday-themed and colorfully-lit floats for the enjoyment of the crowd.

In addition to the floats, the parade featured decorated four-wheelers, pickups and fire engines that began its procession at Bismarck School, traveled down Center Street and ended at the city’s restored train station where the annual “Christmas at the Depot” returned to spread wonder and delight to around 600 children of all ages. Bringing up the end of the parade were Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus, who, in a long-standing tradition, rode to the train station on the back of a Bismarck fire engine.

The line of patient parents and excited children waiting to see Santa Claus stretched from the depot to the junction of East Main and Center streets as others strolled around the grounds admiring the holiday inflatables, enjoying a bag of popcorn, gazing at the city's lighted Christmas tree or stepping inside the depot to warm up a little with a cup of hot chocolate and selection of holiday snacks.

This year’s event was a joint effort of the Bismarck Fire Department, Bismarck Development Committee, city and Depot Committee, all of whom put in a considerable amount of time and effort to bring a touch of holiday spirit to the townspeople.

"I think tonight is going really well," said Liz Bennett, Depot Committee president. "The parade was just beautiful! All the floats were just lit up. It was wonderful! It's a beautiful evening — not so frigidly cold. The ornament on the end of the depot is beautiful. It used to be the one that hung at the four-way stop. There's a lot of people moving around and everybody's having a great time."

The crowd appeared to agree with Bennett.

Christina Dunn of Bismarck and her six-year-old daughter, Harliee, were waiting in line to see Santa Claus.

Asked what she wanted “the jolly old elf” to bring her for Christmas, Harliee said, “Legos and a tablet.”

Making their way down East Main Street, Dustin Hedrick and Clren Suschank of Bismarck, along with their son, 2-year-old Mason, were enjoying the sounds, illuminated balloon characters and smell of fresh popcorn.

“This is our first year to come to this,” said Hedrick “We’re having a really good time tonight.”

While Mason didn’t have much to say about everything going on around him, it was fairly obvious by the expression on his face that he was having the time of his life.

Meanwhile, Bismarck Mayor Seth Radford, who seems to always mysteriously disappear just prior to the appearance of Santa Claus, couldn't have been happier about this year's event.

"It has been a great night," he said. "This year’s Christmas parade went really good with a lot of people came out to watch it. Now we have a big crowd here at the depot. The parents are having a wonderful time and the children are all excited about seeing Santa Claus. It's just another example of what a great town Bismarck is.

"Santa and Mrs. Claus came in on a fire truck once again this year. There's been some people who have thought about having Santa Claus come in riding on a sleigh or in a carriage, but this is the way we've always done it since our Christmas celebration started down at the school back in the late 90s and I'm glad we're keeping that special tradition alive."

Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or kjenkins@dailyjournalonline.com

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