Festival of lights

Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Katelynn Garlitz asked if Santa, who made his first official appearance in the city during the Christmas Parade of Lights, would bring her a flat screen television "that's this big," she said.

Seasonably warmer temperatures drew hundreds of people to the city's downtown area Friday evening as they welcomed the start of the holiday season.

Mountain Home's annual Christmas Parade of Lights celebrated a blend of long-standing traditions and new ideas introduced last year to make the event even more festive, organizers said.

Hosted by the city's chamber of commerce, the parade included floats and entries representing 18 different businesses and organizations in Mountain Home. Friday's lineup represent a significant jump in participation compared to previous years, according to event coordinator Desiree Morgan.

Those participating in the parade brought the festival of lights to life by incorporating multi-colored light displays in their entries.

Following a tradition introduced in 2011, the parade's route rolled along North 2nd East Street before it turned onto East 4th North Street with the procession finishing at Railroad Park. Previously, the parade ended at Triangle Park off American Legion Boulevard.

According to Renee Green from the chamber of commerce, last week's parade attendance more than doubled last year's figures.

"It was a really good turnout," Green said.

Local residents were bundled up to brace against the evening chill.

Idaho Power highlighted the fleet of vehicles participating in Friday's festivities. Staying true to the nature of the parade, each of the company's trucks were decked out in lights, which included a fully illuminated reindeer suspended from their lead vehicle.

With people bundled up in coats and blankets to guard against the evening chill, several hundred people lined up shoulder to shoulder to wave at the passing procession. Among them were Linny and Mia Brown, who marked their first appearance at the city's holiday parade.

"We saw the article in the newspaper, and we thought we'd go and see what it was all about," Linny Brown said as the city fire trucks rolled by with their sirens blaring and lights flashing.

Others watching the parade admitted that it was a lot more fun to get outside and enjoy the lights and community spirit versus staying inside.

With the last vehicles finishing the route, crowds of parade goers then walked over to Railroad Park to join another festival tradition. Walking along the park's pathway, they were greeted by nearly a dozen displays erected by local businesses and private organizations, which illuminated the park pathway. Participation in the "Light Up Railroad Park" effort had nearly doubled following its debut in 2011, Green said.

People sipped cocoa and enjoyed hot dogs served by the local Masons organization in the park, as they enjoyed a choir concert featuring members of the Mountain Home Music School. Following their performance, Mayor Tom Rist threw a switch to light up the park's largest evergreen tree to culminate the evening's main festivities.

While most people choose to wrap up their evening at that point, others made their way to the Mountain Home Youth Center where Santa and Mrs. Claus were waiting to hear children's wish lists. The youngsters were packed earmuff to earmuff as they took turns revealing their fondest holiday wishes.

Among them was Jessica Berg, who hoped that Santa would bring her a pair of high heel shoes, "so I can play dress up," the eight year old said.

Josh Lastar hoped that Santa had room to fit a little motorcycle on his sleigh this year. The tyke admitted he needed it to ride "because my bike doesn't work."

Meanwhile, his sister, Alanna, simply asked Santa for a snowglobe, "so I could show everybody in my class if they like it."

Others like Katelynn Garlitz had bigger presents in mind. The eight year old asked if Santa would bring her a flat screen television "that's this big," Garlitz said with her arms stretched out to emphasize exactly what she wanted.

While a few children included ponies or horses on their wish lists that evening, Cidney Bunch had another type of animal in mind -- a live penguin. "I wanted a penguin because they're cute," she said.

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