Lighting up Carbondale

By Gus Bode

The streetlights on Illinois Avenue went dark Saturday night as a crowd numbering well into the hundreds took to the streets, braving the chilly weather to see the twinkling lights of the 16th annual Lights Fantastic Parade.

The parade was part of Carbondale Main Street and Carbondale Community Arts’ Fantastic Winter Weekend, which featured more than 10 events in Carbondale’s Main Street area. Open houses at several businesses as well as the basketball game and craft sale on campus were also a part of the weekend, which wrapped up Sunday with the Alternative Gift Fair at the Carbondale Civic Center.

The Lights Fantastic Parade featured more than 70 lighted entries, ranging from a traditional manger scene to an alien waving to the crowds from his spaceship. Children dressed as lighted snowflakes, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer with blinking noses and garland-covered angels warmed crowds along the parade route with their renditions of carols such as “Up on the Housetop.”

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For some, the music the marching bands in the parade provided was the highlight of the night. Michelle Cohen of Carbondale attended the parade for the first time Saturday and said she enjoyed the marching bands the most.

“I really liked the bands, especially the last one (Carbondale Community High School Marching Terriers) with the lights on their heads,” Cohen said.

Many of the marching bands in the parade had lights strung on their members instruments, hats and even around their shoulders. Some members of the Carterville Marching Lions were brave enough to twirl flaming batons and also used the flames to warm their hands.

Randi Inman of Macomb, who stood by Cohen during the parade,said she also viewed for the first time. She said she thought an entry in the parade featuring Disney characters was the best, even though Winnie the Pooh’s head was falling off. However, the 70 entries were not quite enough for Inman.

“I liked it,” she said. “I just thought it was really short.”

Though short, the length of the parade might have been a blessing for Myeshia Davis, a senior from Matteson studying sociology.

“I’ve just been breathing into my hands to keep warm,” she said.

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Saturday was Davis’ second time seeing the parade. She said she also attended her freshman year. She waited through the procession to snap pictures with her cell phone of just one person – Santa Claus.

Santa rode through the parade last on a lighted sleigh with all of his twinkling reindeer. Equipped with a microphone, Santa wished a merry Christmas to the crowd and asked what everyone wanted for the holidays.

When someone in the audience shouted “Money,” Santa was quick to answer.

“That’s more of a mom and dad and grandma and grandpa thing,” he said. “Santa doesn’t do money.”

Alicia Wade can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 274 or [email protected]

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