Dowagiac parade largest everPublished 6:03pm Sunday, December 9, 2012
Dowagiac’s 31st annual Christmas parade set a 117-unit record Friday night.
Grand Marshal Tom Atkinson and Victorian Town Crier Jim Torbet led the procession concluded by C.J. Brooks’ I-rated Chieftain Marching Band, back from Walt Disney World.
The second annual community sing hosted by Joyful Noize, worship choir at Michiana Christian Embassy in Niles, dreamed unsuccessfully of a White Christmas.
Trish Brazo of Huntington Bank, chair since 2009, said she was satisfied the route stayed dry for her last parade after rain earlier Friday and again Saturday.
In a twist, Miss Eau Claire/Sodus, best overall, queen Katie Nimtz and her court walked, letting parents and committee members who built the float ride.
Southwestern Michigan’s largest holiday parade, involving 600 people, was underwritten for the seventh consecutive year by Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital.
Corporate sponsors included dentists Charles Burling and Jon Gillesby, Family Fare, Fifth Third Bank, Leader Publications, Mahar Insurance, The Timbers of Cass County, Vylonis Contracting and Greater Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce.
Pat Murphy and Max Sala returned as masters of ceremonies, with Bobbie Jo Hartline of Dogwood Fine Arts Festival and Rebecca Maxey of Wolverine Mutual Insurance Co. judging.
Preceding the parade, Six Ringers bell choir from First United Methodist Church made its third appearance in Beckwith Park.
Camille Briegel has directed the 11-member group for 24 years.
The entire group performs at 9:25 a.m. Dec. 16 and on Christmas Eve at 5 and 9 p.m.
Chief Atkinson and his grandson, Ethan, lit the Tree of Honor and Remembrance adorned with bells sponsored by Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan.
Deputy Police Chief Steve Grinnewald was accompanied by his wife, Melissa, and children, Matt and Lauren. Atkinson rode with his wife, Judge Susan Dobrich, in a 1969 Cutlass convertible provided by C. Wimberley Automotive Group and driven by Jim Allen.
Charlie Troop 1st Squadron 126th Cavalry Regiment, home safely from the global war on terrorism, preceded Dowagiac Fire Department’s first-ever float, Mrs. Claus, portrayed by Debbie Peters for the 23rd time, Mayor Don Lyons and City Council, C. Wimberley’s feed the hungry cars, Pleasant Valley Church in Edwardsburg, Prosecutor Victor Fitz and Little Caesars.
Coloma Pride Care EMS, primary 911-paramedic provider for the Dowagiac area, celebrates 45 years of service.
Miss Dowagiac/Miss Congeniality Erica Greenwood, first runner-up Hope Daniel and second runner-up Courtney Brisbois rode an award-winning float, Santa’s Choice.
Coloma native Richard Veit (Abraham Lincoln) has been providing historic interpretation for more than 35 years in the United States and Canada.
Around the Clock Learning Center reminded that “being different is cool” with its Island of Misfit Toys entry. It won the Borealis award for best light use in 2011.
Fifth Third Bank, which has more than 130 Southwest Michigan employees, was well-represented. They take part in Junior Achievement in Dowagiac schools, Steve’s Run, Cass County Fair auctions, Cornerstone Alliance, United Way and the Chamber.
Following R&D (Jonathon Runyon and Danny DeRyder) came Pokagon Volunteer Fire Department, Miss Dowagiac contestants escorted by pageant directors Courtney Livingston and Gabbi Dorman and 29 dancers from 12-year-old Positively Dance at Miss Kathy’s School of Dance. Earlier Friday the troupe performed school shows.
Officer Matthew Myers represented Pokagon Tribal Police, which serves four Michigan and six Indiana counties. Cass County Relay for Life, led by Terri Schmidt and Sara Hartsell invited support for Relay for Life May 18-19 at the high school.
Encore Dance Company, directed by Eileen Springsteen, was represented by Emily Clark, Gracie Clark, Taylor Froehlich, Sydney Keller, Jessica Rosales, Haley Soderbloom and Julianna Stanger.
Honor Credit Union, with more than 12 locations, has been serving the community for more than 75 years. Sister Lakes Fire Department is celebrating 67 years of service.
Ronald McDonald clowned around on C. Wimberley vehicles driven by Glenn Olson and Scott Scherer.
Dr. Jon Korzun and the Southwestern Michigan College Symphonic Band performed, followed by state Rep. Matt Lori walking behind his car, Midwest Energy Cooperative and Midwest Propane, Word of Life Family Worship Center, Red Hot Mamas of the Council on Aging and Blossomtime Bud Princess Madisyn Kozminski, Bud Prince Logan Fairbanks and Miss Junior Teen Olivia Haskins.
Indian Lake Volunteer Fire Department’s entry pulled a lighted boat.
Following Twistees was Cass County Public Transit, which provided more than 30,000 rides last year. True’s Towing, since 1952, entered a fleet of vehicles, followed by Red Cross, Louie the Lightning Bug, Glenwood Snowmobile Sales, Four Flags Area Apple Festival float and Carl’s Plowing from Niles, Ausra Equipment, North Red Hill 4-H, 19-member Wayne Township Fire Department, Dowagiac Church of Christ, Department of Public Services trucks, a customized bus shared by Uncle Bill’s Barbecue and Village Floral in Cassopolis, Cass County Sheriff’s Office, Forest Glen Assisted Living with Administrator Tammy Haner and Activity Coordinator Corey Morrow, Dowagiac Auto Body at Five-Mile Corner, Cub Scouts and Webelos of Pack 531, Miss Stateline Cassandra Kramer and Portage Road General Baptist Church, Central Cassopolis Fire Department, the Dana Knapp family, Dig-It Excavating, Cowboy Up 4-H, Miss Southwest Michigan Sydney Harner, Cass County Tractor Pullers and Santa, with gift basket drawing winners Dominick McCranger and Kaitlynn Potter on the wagon driven by Wayne Stutzman of Elkhart.