Game's on, but parade's still a ball

Crowds come out for whimsy at a very Baltimore festival

Baltimore & Region


Joe Love crept a little farther onto Falls Road with every distant horn blast and beat of the far-off bass drum. He stretched out on all fours and peered down the cold asphalt, waiting.

"It's coming!" screamed Joe, 4, as he struggled to pull a SpongeBob SquarePants hat away from his eyes. "I can see a -- a really big balloon."

Despite a biting wind and the ever-distracting Ravens game, the Mayor's Christmas Parade did arrive, bringing its quirky holiday charm to thousands who lined sidewalks yesterday in Hampden and Medfield.

Mayor Martin O'Malley waved his way down the 2 1/2 -mile route in a red convertible and, of course, Santa Claus rounded out the festivities. But it was the eccentric and whimsical that drew and delighted the crowds.

The dog, for instance, wearing sunglasses and a robe, pulled along on a skateboard. The "Night of 100 Elvises" coolly passing by (also in sunglasses). A woman in a purple cape, portraying Underdog through interpretative dance. The giant Rudolph balloon that had to be dragged sideways under the power cables. Santa on a Harley.

"It's Christmas, it's fun, it's excitement, it's spirit, it's the love, it's the giving, it's all of that," said Kevin Goodman, a 53-year-old Carney resident who helped lead the parade as the Harley-riding Santa. "What could be more fitting?"

The annual parade, started in the 1970s by community leaders, began shortly after 2 p.m. yesterday at the Poly-Western high school campus. Participants marched south on Falls Road and hung a left onto The Avenue, or 36th Street, in Hampden.

Frigid weather hurt attendance in past years, but yesterday turned sunny just as the marching bands found their beat and the floats started to roll. A cold wind kept some bundled up in scarves and mittens but didn't seem to scare many away.

Betty R. Canoles, 65, and her friend Helen M. Marsh, 75, huddled in the back of a maroon Chrysler minivan, angled for a view. The Glen Burnie residents said the parade puts them in the holiday mood.

"They have a fabulous Santa Claus," Canoles said. "He's just nice and chubby and cheerful, and it's really the whole spirit of Christmas when you see him come through."

For some, the lure of the Ravens game was too much to ignore. Some kept radios by their side. Others sat inside restaurants, splitting their attention between the street and the screen.

Norman Greenspun, an unmistakably loyal fan, had his back to the street.

"They're not doing well," Greenspun, 68, said as the Texans narrowed the score to 12-13. Greenspun sat at Frazier's on The Avenue, which he owns, with about a half-dozen patrons also glued to the television.

"Don't get nervous," he said. "You might have to have a drink."

Down the block, Aaron Ricard, 5, was similarly focused, though his attention was drawn to the candy -- Tootsie Rolls, mainly -- being thrown in his direction.

"Look what I got!" he yelled. "Look what I got!"

His mother, Susan F. Ricard, 49, helped her son pocket the candy as she watched a float pass by. "You have all sorts of creative people doing all sorts of creative stuff," she said. "It's just a great parade."

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