A Very GNV Holiday Parade began its route down University Ave. Saturday morning to the sound of motorcycle engines, Michael Bublé and marching snares.
The event, whose planning was spearheaded by City Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut, marked the city’s first holiday parade in Gainesville for over 30 years. Attendees gathered at 12 p.m. Dec. 2 along University Avenue to cheer on floats, cars and marching bands before gathering for a tree lighting at the Thomas Center and holiday dance party at Bo Diddley Plaza.
Steve Spurrier acted as the parade’s grand marshall and waved good-naturedly to the crowd from a silver Mercedes amid occasional yells of “go Dawgs” or “I told you we should’ve worn our LSU clothes.”
Mayor Harvey Ward made his rounds in a reindeer-antler headband, followed by commissioners Ed Book and Bryan Eastman (wearing Christmas-tree and Santa hats, respectively).
Several local high schools marching bands, including PK Yonge and East Side High School, performed for onlookers — as did UF’s own Pride of the Sunshine Marching Band.
Despite UF’s presence in the parade — Albert and Alberta also commanded on their own float, with the latter donning an orange-and-blue snowman sweater set for the occasion — parade onlookers were mostly families with young children.
Some stretched on towels, others on folding chairs and several enjoying boxes of Dunkin’ munchkins, parents and kids alike waved and took candy from marchers throughout the two-hour event.
“We wanted to come out and have some fun with the little one,” said 29-year-old April Cullinan, who brought her young son to enjoy the festivities after learning about the event on Facebook. “He’s a Christmas baby, so he loves it.”
Ariane Goggins, a 10-year-old fourth grader at Caring & Sharing Learning School, was most excited to attend the parade for the “waving” and candy-collecting, she said. She’s excited for the upcoming holiday season — though she hasn’t started listening to Christmas music yet, she said.
“I want a lot of gifts,” Goggins said.
Goggins was brought to the parade by 71-year-old Jacquelyn Williams, who remembers when Gainesville used to hold parades over 30 years ago, she said.
“I’ve been here for years,” she said. “But it’s [Goggins’] first Christmas parade.”
Though she knows Ocala holds a holiday parade every year, Williams has never attended one there, and it’s good to see the tradition return to Gainesville, she said.
Though temperatures were far from sweater-friendly, reaching over 80 degrees by 2 p.m., Gainesville residents didn’t let the heat distract from their holiday cheer.
“I’ve lived here all my life, so I’m kind of used to it,” said 25-year-old stay-at-home mom Katie Towers, who brought her young daughter and parents to the parade. “It’s not too sunny, so it’s decent today.”
Towers, a Christmas enthusiast, has had her tree up since before Halloween, she said.
Contact Zoey Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @zoeythomas39.
Zoey Thomas is a second-year media production major and the university administration reporter for The Alligator. She previously wrote for the metro desk. Other than reporter, Zoey's titles include espresso connoisseur, long-distance runner and Wes Anderson appreciator.