It wasn't the jingle of bells, but the blaring of fire truck sirens that heralded the arrival of the man of the season in the village of Ballston Spa.
Friday night, Dec. 7, hundreds of families braved fierce winds and billowing snow to line the sidewalks of Milton Avenue to take in a winter parade. There were greyhound dogs wearing cloth reindeer antlers, floats shaped like sleighs draped with blue lights, and marching bands in which members weren't able to wear gloves while they played horns and trumpets. Boy Scouts and bugle and drum corps marched, and children wearing angel halos waved from the backs of hay wagons.
Rescue vehicles, vintage cars and the fire trucks were the true hit of the event, since the firemen and community emergency corps members were tossing candy canes and other sweets into the mittened hands of children. The smart kids who've attended the parade every year brought plastic bags to stow their next massive candy haul since Halloween.
I like the Smarties, said 5 year-old Samantha Roberts of Ballston Spa. "I like to see the lights and hear the songs."
Elsewhere in the village, chilly members of the Ballston Spa High School chorus sand traditional favorites in Wiswall Park, and band members stood on street corners with their instruments for a charming display of old-fashioned holiday nostalgia. Jazz tunes wafted from the windows of the Whistling Kettle, and roving carolers from Las Mariposas Language Center sang in English and Spanish.
Following his auspicious arrival, Santa was hoisted skyward on the truck ladder to light the official village tree in Wiswall Park. Then, he headed over to the blessedly warm lobby of the Ballston Spa National Bank, where kids clambered onto his lap to whisper Christmas wishes.
"I really hope I've been good enough," said Jake Weber, 6, of Milton, who is hoping for Hot Wheels and Simpson's videos on Christmas morning.
Many shops and art galleries in the downtown business district offered refreshments, demonstrations and discounts for holiday shoppers. The festival of trees at St. Mary's school gym offered an indoor wonderland of decorated trees, wreaths, needle-stitched pillows, wooden and evergreen centerpieces and swags that filled the air with the scent of pine needles.
"This is all part of a hometown holiday," said village Mayor John Romano. "It's a chance for family, neighbors and friends to celebrate together. That's what the season really means to us.""