The Denison Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual Christmas Parade rolled through the city’s downtown Thursday night, drawing thousands of spectators to the streets for a glimpse of Santa Claus and a host of other holiday sights.


The parade kicked off with a lighting of the Christmas tree in Heritage Park, before rolling down Main Street. The event featured trains, marching bands, live music, dance performances, more than 100 vehicles and nearly 90 different parade entries.


“It is honestly the biggest parade I’ve seen,” Denison Area Chamber of Commerce Director of Events Shelly Kisel said. “We have multiple entries for each organization, in some cases.”


Kisel said no one is really sure just how long the Christmas parade has been around but estimated that it has run for at least the last 50 years.


“Our theme for the parade this year is ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’” Kisel said. “So we’re hoping that people will find things about their lives here in Texoma that they want to celebrate. And we’re looking forward to seeing the different interpretations of what that means to everyone.”


The parade organizer explained that the Chamber begins to plan for the parade in October and starts by sending out registration forms to previous participants. But Kisel said, as is the case with most holiday shoppers, it’s not uncommon for parade participants to put off their registration and wait until the last minute.


“People like to wait and see what the weather’s going to do before they commit,” Kisel said. “And, of course, people are just really busy, especially this time of year. So, we take entries pretty much right up until the end. And while people sometimes work on their floats for months and months, others will just somehow pull them together in the last week or so.”


One participant who couldn’t afford to put off his holiday work this year was Santa Claus, as played by Judge David Hawley. Old St. Nick said he always makes sure that his elves have a handle on the toy-making this time of year so that he’s not at risk of missing out on the parade.


“It’s the people I enjoy more than anything,” Claus said. “You can really feel the spirit in everyone that’s here.”


Traci Hudgens attended the parade with her two grandchildren and said while the event featured just about every Christmas staple in the book, it was the simple joys that meant the most to her.


“Just seeing the lights and the smiles on the kids’ faces is so wonderful,” Hudgens said. “That’s probably what I like most.”


Hudgens said she has attended the parade for the last 30 years and in that time, she has seen it grow significantly. Despite the decades, Hudgens said the parade has always reflected Denison’s holiday spirit and continues to bring its people together.


“I think it’s great for the community,” Hudgens said. “You see friends and family and it’s just the most wonderful time of the year.”