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The cities of Park Hills and Leadington barely missed the bad weather for their the annual Hefner Furniture Christmas Parade, sponsored by the Park Hills-Leadington Chamber of Commerce.

Despite rain showers just an hour before the start of the event, crowds still showed up to see the annual tree lighting and the light-filled parade floats.

According to the Park Hills-Leadington Chamber of Commerce Facebook page, Santa himself worked closely with Mother Nature to ensure the rain came to an end before the crowds were set to arrive.

Park Hills-Leadington Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tammie Coleman said she was worried the rain would keep people from coming to the event, but that had a good turnout.

The evening began with a tree lighting ceremony in the Leadington Plaza, with introductions by Chamber President Tish Roberts.

New this year were two vendor booths. A “Hot Cocoa Christmas,” hosted by Heart & Soul Hospice handing out free hot cocoa, and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” hosted by Leadington Pit Stop providing free candy and cocoa.

Roberts then reminded the crowd that after the ceremony the parade would go through Leadington and Park Hills with a ceremony at the Park Hills Sports Complex to follow. Roberts then introduced Leadington Mayor Dustin Winick, who led the ceremonial Christmas tree lighting.

Following the tree lighting, the crowd was treated to a performance by the first and fifth grade students Honors Choir from Central Elementary School. The crowd then vacated the plaza and took their places along the two-mile parade route to enjoy the floats.

The parade, which was themed “Christmas Musical Magic” this year, had some 34 entries. This year’s theme challenged float makers to choose their favorite all-time Christmas song. Whether it be a classic hymn, a musical melody, a song from an animated show or even a country or rock ballad, there were plenty of songs to choose from.

Children and parents alike packed the parade route, leading from Leadington Plaza to the Park Hills Sports Complex, and braved the cold for the chance to spy Santa Claus and to collect some candy.

Floats were full of smiling faces wishing Merry Christmas to all. One had the Grinch skiing out the back, and another had a trailer full of passengers singing Christmas carols.

As the crowd caught up to the parade at the Park Hills Sports Complex, the evening resumed with a second tree lighting ceremony led by Park Hills Mayor Daniel Naucke.

The Sports Complex had vendor booths offering a wide variety of family fun including free hot chocolate and cookies, children’s games, kids crafts and more.

Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived shortly after the parade to visit with all the little ones. The traditional photo with Santa was taken in Santa’s House.

Roberts described Santa’s House as a cozy little house with seats and a fireplace display to make the Christmas photo even more festive.

The crowd gathered at the Sports Complex enjoyed a musical performance by Raelyn Winick and as well as a dance performance by On Stage Performing Arts.

“I didn’t think it was going to be this big due to the weather but the turnout is phenomenal,” Roberts said. “The kids are all having a good time."

In concluding the night’s festivities, Roberts revealed the winners of the parade float contest.

Third place went to First Methodist Church of Park Hills. Second place went to Battlefield Laser Tag and Rob's Guns. The first place winner was named as Christian Life Church.

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Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at vkemper@democratnewsonline.com

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