WHEELING - The "Zooperstars," a bevy of bands and the Pirate Parrot joined Santa Claus to delight onlookers Friday during the Perkins Family Restaurant & Bakery Fantasy in Lights Parade.
"I have been coming since I was a kid. It is great," said Wheeling resident Dale Howard as he sat with an umbrella over his 5-year-old daughter, Abigail.
Though the Howards and many others believed they may need their rain gear for the parade this year, most of the Friday showers stayed away from downtown Wheeling.
Photos by Scott McCloskey
The marching band from Triadelphia Middle School joins with the Warwood Middle School band during the annual Perkins Restaurant & Bakery Fantasy in Lights Parade in Wheeling on Friday.
"I like to see the bands," Abigail Howard said. "I like Santa Claus, too."
Riding his flag-laden bicycle through the parade, Charles "Moon Dog" Waldrum said he enjoys the event every year.
"I have been in it since 1978. I am like the caboose on a train. When they see me coming, it's all over," he said.
Highlights of the parade included two tribute floats to West Virginia's 150th birthday, the Talking Christmas Tree, the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, the Wells Fargo Stagecoach, the West Virginia University Mountaineer, many costumed characters, former astronaut Jon McBride, area church groups and dance schools. G. Randolph "Randy" Worls and Ross Felton served as parade marshals.
The Zooperstars costumed characters really caught the crowd's attention, as "Squidney Crosby," "LeBronco James" and "Tiger Woodchuck" hopped, bopped and dropped their way along the parade route.
A number of bands also participated this year, including those from West Liberty University; Central State University; Warwood, Triadelphia, Bridge Street, Wheeling, Moundsville and Sherrard middle schools; John Marshall, Brooke, Magnolia, Bellaire, St. Clairsville, Martins Ferry, Shadyside, Buckeye Local, Indian Creek, Valley, North Marion, Philip Barbour and Avella high schools.
Diana Ware of Steubenville enjoyed her initial Wheeling parade with her three granddaughters: Julie Byers, Makenzie Heath and Madison Byers.
"I have never been to a parade at night," Ware said. "I have always wanted to come."
Jaytez and Evonne Johnson of Steubenville have been coming to the Wheeling parade for 15 years. This year was special because they watched their granddaughter, Kylah Florio, 8, perform as a member of the Generation of Steppaz dance group.
Robert and Lisa Green of Center Point, La., brought their family to the parade. Living in the area for nearly two years to work in the natural gas industry, they learned of the parade through fellow employees.
"It looks like a lot of fun," Robert Green said.
Prior to the start of the parade, local singing groups Spinning Jenny and the Joseph Sisters performed an outdoor concert at the intersection of 14th and Market streets.
Senior Staff Writer Fred Connors contributed to this report.