WELLSBURG - For many Brooke County residents, going to the Wellsburg Chamber of Commerce Christmas Parade is a holiday tradition that helps them usher in the Christmas season.
And this year's event was no different, though it also helped everyone to show their appreciation to the county's firefighters.
The parade committee headed by Eric Fithyan decided the theme for this year's procession should be "A Salute to Our Firefighters," and the group invited chiefs or other representatives from each of the county's departments to appear as grand marshals.
WINTER WONDERLAND — Brooke County Special Olympians appeared on a sleigh in a winter scene created for this float in the Wellsburg Chamber of Commerce Christmas Parade Friday. - Warren Scott
SANTA ARRIVES — Santa Claus was a special guest at the Wellsburg Chamber of Commerce Christmas Parade and appeared afterward on the Wellsburg Town Square, where the chamber offered free photos of him with area children Friday. - Warren Scott
Accepting the invitation were Wellsburg Assistant Fire Chief Tom E. Diserio, Bethany Fire Chief Paul Seidewitz, Weirton Fire Chief Jerry Shumate, Bethany Pike Fire Chief Dave Collins, Colliers Fire Chief Theo Keenan Windsor Heights Assistant Fire Chief Steve Williams and Lt. Gerald McClain, the Franklin Community Fire Department's Firefighter of the Year.
Trucks from several Brooke County fire departments also were among the parade's 95 units, which also included a color guard from the Tri-State Young Marines and members of the Patriot Guard motorcycle group, who led the procession.
Wellsburg Mayor Sue Simonetti, Chamber President Richard Krisak and Jacie Ridgely, the chamber's executive director; joined Fithyan in cutting a ribbon to mark its start.
The parade committee's decision to move the parade to 5 p.m., an hour later than in recent years, allowed groups to decorate their floats and vehicles in lights, resulting in some bright and colorful entries.
Among them were a scene of Santa's workshop sponsored by Main Street Bank, a scene of a gazebo connected by footbridge to a Christmas tree supplied by Eagle Manufacturing, a float carrying a lighted toy train and Women of the Wellsburg Moose and friends dressed as Santa's elves, and a trailer carrying members of the Brooke County 4-H Cloverbud clubs along with candy canes, presents and a Christmas tree.
Even the cars of the Osiris Shriners' Tin Lizzy Patrol were decked out in lights.
Aided by members of the Brooke High School Leo Club, Kirk Kazienko and other leaders of the Bernie's Kids Toy Drive collected donations of toys along the parade route and afterwards on the Wellsburg Town Square.
Santa Claus once again was a special guest, closing the parade and meeting with children on the square for photos and Christmas wishes.
As they awaited the procession's start, parade-goers were asked what puts them in the Christmas spirit.
Alex Isinghood, 9-year-old son of Aaron and Becky Isinghood of Wellsburg, admitted it's thinking of Christmas presents and making up his present wish list.
Cindy Atwell of Wellsburg replied, "Decorating. I started today."
Her friend, Betty Francis, also of Wellsburg, said, "I like to decorate, too. It's my favorite time of the year."
Francis came to the parade to see her granddaughter, Eden Rice of Bethany, atop her horse, Sea Feather.
P.J. DiGiacinto of Wellsburg - who attended with her daughter, Megan Wilkerson, and 4-year-old granddaughter, Sophia - said there are three things the three do together: going to see the Oglebay Park Festival of Lights, Santa Claus and the Wellsburg parade.
"We're making memories. It's the little things that are important," DiGiacinto said.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)