The sun shined brightly on Penn Street, attenuating the effects of below-average temperatures Saturday morning on spectators and participants of the Reading Holiday Parade.
It was just cold enough to require a winter hat and gloves, reminders that the December holidays are just around the corner.
There was no such marker last November. The city canceled the parade amid concerns about community spread of COVID-19 before vaccines were available.
Many who staked out a spot on the sidewalks Saturday said they had missed the parade terribly. Seeing Santa Claus riding on top of a firetruck marks not only the end of the parade but the beginning of the festive season filled with traditional songs and decorations and gatherings with family.
Laura Price of Wyomissing warmly recalled watching Reading’s late-November parades as a child, despite often freezing temperatures. Her most vivid memory is of it being so cold that her hood was pulled almost entirely closed, leaving only a small triangle around her eyes, nose and mouth.
“I’d come with my parents, and it was a nice time to be together,” she said. “It just kicks off the Christmas season for us.”
Now a mother of three, Price is keeping the tradition alive with her children: Madelyn, 14; Adam, 7; and Hazel, 6. They got to the area of Fifth and Penn streets well ahead of the 10 a.m. scheduled start of the parade, which formed at City Park, six blocks away.
Ramon Reyes of Reading started going to the parade several years ago when his daughter Jalitza, now 9, was a participant as a Girl Scout. She’s no longer in the parade, but going to it with her father has become a tradition.
“What else would you rather do,” Ramon asked rhetorically.
After the parade, father and daughter continue another tradition: sitting down for a huge breakfast within the warm, cozy confines of the Marvel Ranch restaurant at Fourth and Penn streets.
A sweet occasion
Tom Richardson of Lincoln Park brought his 5-year-old grandson, Sam Buckley, to see the parade, as he did two years ago when it was last held.
“It’s a tradition for me to bring my grandchildren,” Richardson said, adding that it’s a family ritual that began back when his parents were young.
“It makes you feel like the start of the Christmas season is coming, that’s why,” Richardson said.
“I like when they give out candy,” Sam interjected.
He would not be disappointed.
Reading Mayor Eddie Moran, wearing a Santa hat, tossed candy and shouted “Happy Holidays!” as he strolled down Penn Street.
One of those Tootsie Rolls rolled to the stroller of 13-month-old Emma Pacholoski at Seventh and Penn streets near the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel. The girl was taking in her first parade with her mother, Kelsey Pacholski, a Berks County native who lives in Voorhees, N.J., and her grandmother Lori Lillis of Spring Township.
“It’s her first Tootsie Roll, too,” Lillis said. “She’s going to be wearing it by the time we head home.”
Plenty to see and hear
Right around that time, the 42-member Conrad Weiser High School Marching Scouts passed by while performing a medley of such Christmas classics as “Deck the Halls” and the “Carol of the Bells,” broken up by a drum-line solo and choreographed jiving by the rest of the blue-and-white instrumentalists.
They were one of seven high school or junior high marching bands well spaced throughout the nearly two-hour procession.
Beside the bands, the parade had something for everyone, including plenty of mascots.
The Reading Police Department went all-out. Its part of the procession including cops on Harley-Davison motorcycles and bicycles, in special vehicles such those of the bomb squad and crime-scene investigation unit, and two new mascots: Chase the Dog and Coffee with a Cop. The latter was a walking latte, complete with a frothy hat and straw.
The doggie mascot, wearing a blue policeman’s hat and patrol uniform, waived its giant yellow paws and posed for pictures with children, including Reading resident Jessica Acosta’s niece Gere, 3, and son, Jayvian, 8.
Acosta said she appreciated the interaction by police and other parade participants.
“I think it’s great for Reading,” she said of the parade in general. “I love it.”
Tribute to RACC and more
Reading Area Community College had a procession within a procession. The mayor named RACC President Dr. Susan Looney and her four predecessors as this year’s grand marshals.
Looney and the past presidents—Drs. Byron Rinehimer, Gust Zogas, Richard A. Kratz and Anna Weitz —shared the grand marshal vehicle.
Students and staff walked as a group behind a large red banner that proclaimed 2021 as the college’s 50th anniversary.
For those who liked vehicles, the event had everything from small cars used by participants of the annual Duryea Hillclimb on Mount Penn to the tiny Shriners cars that entertain kids by being driven in zany patterns by grown men. There was also a procession of classic muscle cars, decorated in antlers and garland, by members of the Skyline Drive Corvette Club.
The Skyline Skateboard and Cycling Team team put on an impressive demonstration with their extended “wheelies.”
Reading Extreme Boxing Club members put on an impressive sparring demonstration.
One of the few floats in this year’s parade bore Christmas greetings in several languages. The display by Reading Muhlenberg Career and Technology Center students consisted of a giant globe surrounded by wrapped gift packages.
The most anticipated participant, Santa Claus, arrived around noon atop a Keystone Hook and Ladder Company vintage ladder truck, capping a festive day on Penn Street.
Source: Berkshire mont