Christmas felt a little bit closer Sunday with the city of Chester's Christmas parade downtown - especially with an appearance by Santa himself.
People lined Main, Saluda and York streets in the mild late afternoon to watch the floats and cars of the annual parade.
The parade, which lasted nearly an hour, kicked off with the whir of sirens and an appearance by Chester City Police Chief Andre Williams, followed by the Chester High School JROTC. The JROTC members were led by a man using a megaphone to lead the group with a rendition of the army cadence, "They Say That in the Army."
Boy Scout Pack 61, the Girl Scouts and Marine Corps League Detachment 1161 soon followed, and Chester Middle School cheerleaders stopped to give the audience a treat with their routine to musical group LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem."
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Bands from Great Falls and Chester high schools also provided music.
Most of the parade's participants were in cars rather than floats, including Probate Judge Lois Roddey, Sheriff Richard Smith, S.C. Rep. Greg Delleney, County Supervisor Carlisle Roddey and various City and County Council members.
And they made sure there was plenty of candy thrown to spectators.
Sisters Savannah and Mikayla Jacobs, 10 and 5, and their friend Monica Vaughn, 10, were stockpiling candy while watching the parade from the side of York Street.
The girls were excited to see "celebrity appearances" from Chester's Col. Sanders lookalike, SpongeBob SquarePants, who was high-fiving spectators, and Hello Kitty.
"We've never seen Hello Kitty in the parade before," said their mother, Alexa Jacobs. "I had to take a picture."
Savannah and Monica saw another familiar face in the parade.
"I was happy to see my best friend McKenzie Elwell," Savannah said.
"And I liked seeing the hillbillies," Monica added.
An old Ford Model T covered in camouflage passed through blaring an old country tune. A sign reading "Hillbilly" covered the back.
Alexa Jacobs said there seemed to be more cars than floats this year, but they enjoyed the parade. Last year was the first year they had gone to the city parade in a while.
"The kids love it," she said.
But the biggest reaction came when Santa Claus himself rolled through on an old-fashioned, rusty fire engine. He waved at the crowd and shouted, "Merry Christmas!"
As the parade wrapped up, it was a bittersweet moment for Betty Jean Boulware. Her brother, Alvin Grant, was the one who brought forward the idea of using lights to decorate trees each Christmas around the town. He formed a nonprofit group, Chester Citizens Alliance, to install power lines and outlets for each tree lining the city just so the lights could be placed there.
He died last year, but Boulware and her friend Mary Francis Poole attended the parade in his honor.
"It was good," Poole said. "I enjoyed it from beginning to end."