COLUMBIA — On the corner of Ninth Street and Broadway, a group of young children squealed with delight as though they'd just seen Santa Claus.
But they hadn't seen him — at least, not yet.
These children were among the hundreds of people who braved the 28-degree chill Sunday afternoon in the hopes of seeing Santa Claus during the 34th Annual Jaycees Holiday Parade.
Police and firetruck sirens sounded the start of the parade shortly after 3 p.m., and members of the Columbia Fire Department passed out candy, prompting spectators to rush forward and pick up as many treats as they could carry.
Along with the fire department, at least a dozen different groups made an appearance in this year's holiday parade, which headed down Broadway from College Avenue to Fourth Street.
In tune with this year's theme, "Giving Back for the Holidays," a group of three people riding on a trailer passed out carefully wrapped presents from under a colorful Christmas tree atop the float.
Lori Thweatt was among the onlookers, and she said when she brought her two children to this year's parade, she wasn't expecting to find a new activity for her 8-year-old daughter to get involved with.
Thweatt had never heard of the Blue Thunder Track Club before Sunday. But thanks to the group's float in the parade, she said the track club might have a new member.
"I'll be checking them out because I've got a little runner," Thweatt said, referring to her daughter, Elina Thweatt da Silva.
Thweatt said she especially enjoyed the Missouri High Steppers' energized performance.
But for her 7-year-old son, Gean Thweatt da Silva, it was all about the candy. Before the parade's end, Gean had amassed several dozen pieces of chocolate, suckers and other hard candies.
"I think the parade is a wonderful thing," Thweatt said. She said she counts her family as one of many in Columbia who appreciate the fun, family-oriented holiday entertainment.
For Elina and Gean, Santa Claus was a welcome sight on the final float, a white-paneled house with green window shutters. Clad in his signature red suit, Santa peeked out of the house's chimney and threw candy to the crowd below, wishing all a happy holiday.
Supervising editor is Edward Hart.