Unusually warm December temperatures here were chilled Saturday afternoon with the renewal of two annual Pine Bluff holiday traditions — the Christmas parade on Main Street and then the Old Towne Christmas Celebration, held at the convention center for the first time in its eight-year history.
The Jefferson County Civitan Club-sponsored parade — themed “The True Meaning of Christmas” — didn’t attract as big a crowd as many of the past parades, but this year’s event was competing for the first time with a University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff appearance in the televised Southwestern Athletic Conference championship football game in Birmingham, Ala.. UAPB won its first-ever SWAC title with a 24-21 overtime decision over Jackson State.
Nevertheless, several hundred observers lined Main Street to view the parade. And excitement was definitely in the air.
Six-year-old Brooklyn Little and her brother, 13-year-old Brandon Little, were primed for marching band music as they awaited the procession.
“I like to see dance routines,” Brooklyn said as she juked and jived to her own silent rhythm.
“I like bands,” interjected Brandon. “I don’t like to dance, but I like their music.”
The siblings were eagerly awaiting the appearance of their brother Randy, a member of the participating Broadmoor Elementary School drill team. The children’s parents are Randy and Toni Little.
Seven-year-old Lylyanna Ibarra, a Dollarway School District elementary student, was pleased that she would be seeing Santa Claus.
“And this will be the second time I’ve seen him,” she boasted. “I saw him at Brookshire’s, too.”
Lllyanna said she’s “been good the whole year” and is looking forward to Santa’s visit on Christmas Eve night. Accompanied at the parade by her grandmother, Phyllis Lyles, she related her Christmas wishes. For her grandmother, she wants Santa to bring some wall-hanging devices for home decoration purposes.
For herself? “A happy life,” she replied wistfully.
And to prove the old adage of “Children of all ages love a parade,” 86-year-old Letha Hobbs was among the spectators. The Oklahoma native said she’s seen too many parades to count, “but I’ve enjoyed every one.”
Although she’s always pleased to see a marching band perform, the parade element she likes most “is just being with other people.”
Parade judges awarded the Best Float prize to Girl Scouts Troop No. 1291. Dollarway High School’s unit won the Best Marching Band citation and the Best Drill Team award went to Broadmoor Elementary’s squad, much to the delight of the Little family.
The Old Towne Christmas Celebration, sponsored by Pine Bluff Downtown Development Inc., featured give-away booths manned by such groups as the Pine Bluff Convention and Visitors Bureau, Red Cross and Three Rivers Audubon Society. Goodies were distributed, too, at various game booths, and children could also have their faces painted or craft their own Christmas tree ornaments and holiday pillows.
Magician Tommy Terrific was busily creating balloon animals and hats for youngsters.
Entertaining the expected 500-700 attendees was the Jenkins Memorial Center Choir, the members of which are mentally and/or physically challenged. Janice Wilks is the group’s director, accompanied by musician Sue Cox. The choir, now in its 15th year, received enthusiastic applause for its renditions of several Christmas standards, including “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” and “Joy to the World.”
Santa Claus (AKA Hastings Attwood) was having his photograph made with children relating their Christmas wishes and answering questions on their conduct this year.
Among those conversing with Santa were Patrick Carter Jr., Angel Holloway, Rayshone Holloway, Day’shawna Moody and Shy’la Moody, who ranged in ages from 5 to 9. They were primarily requesting electronic devices, and a couple said they had done “extra-duty work” in being nice, such as “helping people,” “cleaning grandma’s room”and even “getting on the honor role and making good grades.”
Supporting the Old Towne Christmas Celebration with grants were the Pine Bluff Area Community Foundation, Synergy and Pine Bluff Festival Association.