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Replay: Mild December night brings out thousands for Colorado Springs parade

December 7, 2014 Updated: December 7, 2014 at 12:45 pm
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photo - The 30th Annual Festival of Lights Parade on Saturday, December 6, 2014. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette
The 30th Annual Festival of Lights Parade on Saturday, December 6, 2014. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette 

A year after temperatures hovering near zero degrees cut attendance and some participants, the 30th annual Festival of Lights parade through downtown Colorado Springs drew animated crowds that filled the sidewalks and enjoyed the relatively warm 30-degree night.

For attendees, the weather for the parade was exactly what they had hoped for.

"It's perfect," Mike Coleman said before the parade began. He had two daughters participating, one in a marching band and another holding a banner. The two, he said, were "all jazzed" to take part.

While warmer than last year, the weather was cold enough for most of the revelers who lined Tejon Street to be bundled in blankets, gloves and jackets, with some showing off holiday spirit with Christmas stocking caps.

The crowd for the 2013 parade was estimated to be about 10,000 people, said Terry Collinson, the parade's executive director, much different than the estimated 60,000 people that lined the mile-long route Saturday.

Collinson said close to 
70 floats, bands and other organizations took part in the parade, which featured about 3,000 total people.

One of the participants, and the event's grand marshal, was retired Navy Lt. Jim Downing, who was dressed in a Santa Claus outfit, minus the thick white beard and stocking cap.

The 101-year-old Downing is the oldest living survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He sat in the passenger seat of a car and waved to the crowd. Marching bands playing holiday music and floats covered in lights followed Downing.

Crowds swelled downtown between St. Vrain and Vermijo streets hours before the event began, and local businesses sold baked goods and hot drinks for those standing out during the parade.

But for many, the weather was more than tolerable.

"This is really pleasant for this time of year," Greg Juarez said.

The Minnesota native was not wearing gloves, nor was he covering his face with a scarf, which was unlike previous parades he attended, he said. This year's temperature, Juarez said, was nothing.

"Hopefully we can just get some snow for Christmas," he said.

Meanwhile, Denver's 40th annual Parade of Lights went off as planned Saturday despite protesters staging demonstrations nearby, the Denver Post reported.

About a dozen protesters gathered in Civic Center Park to demonstrate against recent grand jury decisions in New York and Missouri to not issue criminal indictments against police officers in the deaths of unarmed civilians.

Their chants and drum beats didn't reach the thousands who came out on a relatively mild night to participate in the annual parade, a Denver tradition sponsored by 9News.

The Post reported that Denver police were out in force during the event in case protesters tried to disrupt the festivities. Some protesters had said on social media before the event that they planned to discretely infiltrate the crowd and then jump into action during the parade, but the night ended up remaining relatively calm.

Denver police reported a protester temporarily disrupted the parade at 15th Street and Glenarm Avenue. The protester was arrested, and the parade continued.

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The Denver Post contributed to this report.

Contact Stephen Hobbs: 636-0275

Twitter @bystephenhobbs

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