Hundreds of people braved the cold and lined King Street on Friday night to welcome Santa Claus and kick off the Christmas season at the 26th annual Shippensburg DOIT Holiday Parade.

“The streets were very full this year,” said parade chair Lizzie Bailey. “There were a lot of people, and we had a nice crowd at the tree lighting, too. We had more people than last year, and last year was a boomer year.”

Bailey said the community support was especially nice because the theme of this year’s celebration is “Hometown Christmas.”

“I was pleased that the veterans participated, and we had Little League and elementary wrestlers marching in honor of Bill Wolfe,” she said.

For many people, the parade, which is followed by the tree lighting ceremony, refreshments, holiday activities and visits with Santa, is a tradition.

“We come every year and then go on a carriage ride,” said Kristy Wagner of Shippensburg. “We get hot cocoa and cookies, too.”

“I like to see all the lights and floats, and music,” said daughter Abby, 9. “And Santa,” added 2-year-old daughter Harper.

Chris and Amy Jackson, of Shippensburg, and their three sons also attend the parade every year “unless it’s really, really cold,” Amy Jackson said and chuckled.

Chris Jackson said they once lived along King Street, and it’s always nice to return to see their old house, enjoy a few cookies and visit with Santa.

Bryan and Heather Zeger, of Shippensburg, were at the parade with their children, 5-year-old Lexi and 9-month-old Gabriel.

“She’s so excited to see Santa,” said Heather Zeger of her daughter.

Lexi said she asked her parents to take her to the parade so she could ask Santa for a stuffed unicorn and a Fitbit.

Crystal Torres and her children have attended every parade since moving to Shippensburg five years ago.

Torres said it’s “the joy of Christmas” that makes the evening special.

“We come to see Santa come to town and to see them light the tree,” said her son Logan.

Mary Aylesworth, of Shippensburg, waved to parade participants and shouted, “Merry Christmas.”

“We appreciate everything our vets and fallen heroes have done for us,” she said, adding that it is important to be positive and set a good example for children.

Bailey agreed.

“The community needs to be there for these youths,” she said. “Over the last decade, we have lost a lot of people in our hometown who were doers, and it is the younger people who will step up to lead us.”

Aylesworth said everyone should also remember that Christmas is “all about Jesus.”

“Don’t forget why we have this season,” she said.

Aylesworth was especially grateful to spend the evening with her brother, who is visiting from Syracuse, N.Y.

David and Ashley Lane, who recently moved to Shippensburg, brought their children to the parade to kick off the holiday season.

“We wanted to get to know the town a little more and get in the spirit of Christmas,” David Lane said.

Festivities continued through the weekend in Shippensburg.

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