COLUMBIA — Bitter temperatures and chilly winds did not dampen spirits downtown as spectators lined Broadway on Sunday afternoon to watch the 32nd annual Columbia Holiday Parade.
This year's theme was "Winter Wonderland," and the parade featured floats with holiday settings, Santa Claus and Girl Scouts dressed as presents.
Mandy Witzig and her daughters, Teagan, 5, and Annie, 2, are parade veterans. The Witzigs have been attending the parade for six years, and this year they set up chairs and blankets between Eighth and Ninth streets.
"We love it because the community comes out," Witzig said.
Teagan and Annie said that they liked the volunteers walking alongside the floats and handing out candy to the crowd. Like many of the children present, they came prepared with bags to haul home the candy stash.
The parade began at 3 p.m. with Columbia Police Department officers mounted on motorcycles, lights flashing. Hickman and Rock Bridge high school marching bands, Ronald McDonald and a walking Occupy COMO tent were a few of the many floats and paraders to travel down Broadway.
The 4 p.m. finale was the arrival of Santa Claus climbing out of a chimney on a float by the Columbia Jaycees, the sponsor of the event.
Bette Fletcher and her husband, Randy, were shopping downtown when they stumbled upon the parade and decided to stay.
"It's fun to see the kids catching the candy," Bette Fletcher said.
Spectators fought the cold by bundling up, and many wore blankets draped on shoulders or laps. Several even tucked small dogs inside coats to help keep them warm.
Witzig wasn't deterred by the cold, though.
"It really kicks off the holiday season," she said.