Santa waves to the hundreds of children and bystanders who crowded near Main Street store fronts on Saturday morning to catch a glimpse of him. (Staff photo by Seth Grundhoefer)
Santa waves to the hundreds of children and bystanders who crowded near Main Street store fronts on Saturday morning to catch a glimpse of him. (Staff photo by Seth Grundhoefer)
Lariah Chapman bubbled over with excitement when she caught a glimpse of Santa Claus in downtown Madison over the weekend.

Having just turned 4-years-old on Saturday, she blew several kisses to Jolly Old Saint Nick and repeatedly shouted, "it's my birthday today," as he rode by during Madison's Very Merry Christmas Parade.

Lariah, along with hundreds of spectators - some making the final tweaks to their Christmas lists before meeting Santa at the Ohio Theatre later in the day - crowded the sidewalks on Main Street to celebrate the return of Madison's holiday parade.

The parade, coordinated by the city of Madison, had more than 40 entries with several floats that each carried a cheery, holiday theme. Several entrants performed songs and dance routines for the event, which ran from Jefferson Street to Broadway and lasted about 40 minutes.

Walking groups handed out candy, while children's book characters Curious George, the Berenstain Bear family and Skippyjon Jones waved to the large crowd from floats and convertibles. The characters were available after the event to meet with children.

Aaron Kelsey, first-time parade coordinator, said he heard a good deal of positive feedback from parade-goers - some of whom came from Columbus and Indianapolis to spend the day in Madison.  

"They seemed to really like the variety and having more floats," he said.

This year's parade rules were stricter than in years past. Entrants had to include a Christmas theme and no political material was allowed, Kelsey said.

"We really tried to keep it more about Christmas and entertaining," he said.  

"I think all the floats looked great, and people put a lot of work into them," he added.

A small hiccup came before the parade when the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile was stopped while attempting the cross the Milton-Madison Bridge because the vehicle exceeded the 3-ton weight limit. The crew detoured to Vevay and made it right in time for the parade.  

Kelsey teamed up with Andrew Forrester, the mayor's executive assistant of community relations, to bring back the parade this year after it was canceled last year due to lack of entries.

If he helps plan the parade next year, Kelsey said he hopes to expand the event and bring in fresh ideas and entertainment, like helium balloons. And that means again starting at the first of the year to draw sponsors, he added.

"If I do it again, I'd like to keep improving it and keep making it more exciting," he said.