A bit of light drizzle wasn't enough to rain on the Hometown Holiday Lights Parade in Berkley.
Despite a gray, dreary day that darkened into an evening sprinkled with raindrops, Berkley was aglow with Christmas spirit during the annual celebration Saturday (!).
The festivities – which included free horse-drawn carriage rides, trolley service throughout the downtown shopping district, a petting zoo and carolers outside – kicked off at noon and continued after the 5:30 p.m. parade with a tree-lighting ceremony and visits with Santa outside .
Parade and festivities
"We have the most special of special guests with us this evening – Santa Claus!" exclaimed Berkley Mayor Phil O'Dwyer, with the enthusiam of someone introducing a rock star to the stage, as he welcomed the Jolly One during the tree-lighting ceremony outside after the parade.
Santa arrived there after riding down 12 Mile Road on a float bedecked with reindeer, including red-nosed Rudolph, to the delight of children young and old.
"Am I on your naughty or nice list?" one spectator yelled to Santa as he cruised by, evoking squeals of joy from children along the route.
"I liked Santa the best," Berkley resident Ashley Chalela, 9, said of the parade. Afterward, she and her brother Michael, 7, got tell Santa their Christmas wishes; Ashley said she asked for a chair for her room and video games.
The tree-lighting ceremony also was attended by grand marshal and former Mayor Marilyn Stephan and City Council members Dan Terbrack, Eileen Steadman, Steve Baker and Alan Kideckel.
"Congrats to the Berkley Junior Women's Club and the Holiday Parade Committee on an excellent job," said Kideckel, who sported a festive "Peanuts" Christmas tie.
Before the parade kicked off, Sue Binkow and her boyfriend John "Gus" Gusway set up camp on a bench near 12 Mile and Wakefield to watch his granddaughters march in the parade. As light rain began to fall, Binkow's daughter Sarah stopped by to grab some hand warmers from her mom. Sarah, a senior, was assisting the robotics team with parade setup and break down.
"This is kind of giving back for them. They do more than just robotics," Sue Binkow said, adding that the team also performs community service and holds fundraising events. "They have a good relationship with the city of Berkley."
Nearby, carolers filled the crisp evening air with hymns and Christmas songs outside , only momentarily distracted by the sound of a lone bag piper passing by on the sidewalk across the street. "Do you know 'Silent Night'?" one caroler shouted to him in jest.
This is the first year the church held caroling as part of the parade festivities and parishioners from and also participated.
"We thought it would be fun and get the community together," Jen Butka said. The church planned to serve free hot beverages and cookies and – perhaps more importantly to spectators – keep its bathrooms open to the public.
Earlier in the day, families enjoyed the free petting zoo and pony rides in a empty lot at Tyler and 12 Mile.
officer Gail Briggs kept an eye on the scene from her truck in the adjacent parking lot of .
"It's just fun. I love it," she said. "I think it makes the kids' day."
Briggs urged residents to keep their dogs away from the farm animals for safety's sake: "Dogs and farm animals don't mix," she warned.
Teri Rollins of Carousel Acres in South Lyon – where Summer the mini-pony, Lily the mini-donkey, Harley the alpaca, Sally the sheep, Isabelle and Silver the goats, and Cherokee and Jackie the ponies live – said her main piece of advice to petting zoo visitors was: Don't feed the animals.
"People always say to me, 'Do they bite?' And, I always say, 'Even humans bite if you make them mad enough.' Just look at Mike Tyson!"
Jan Bures, who owns in Berkley and sponsored the event, was on-site with his two playful kids, ages 7 and 10. He joked that he decided to sponsor the popular attraction "to keep the kids happy and give them a little R and R so they sleep like bricks."
But, on a more serious note, Bures, who has been in business in Berkley for the past 40 years, said he prefers to help out locally.
"A lot of those (big) charities make more money than you and I do. Doing something like this, you see the results," he said as a smiling youngster toddled past in the muddy lot on her way to pet the animals. "I just want to see the kids have fun. A lot of people are having a hard time this year."
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