Rains and a winter chill were not enough to dim holiday spirits in downtown Denison Thursday as the city held its annual Christmas Parade.

The parade, a holiday staple dating back to 1934, is organized by the Denison Area Chamber of Commerce and seeks to bring residents from all across Texoma to the streets of Denison for a night of holiday cheer.

Thursday’s festivities also included the official lighting of the city’s Christmas tree in Heritage Park by Santa Claus himself.

“I think it is the tradition and the people who return each year and try to make their displays better than the last year that make the Denison parade,” Jennifer Bohannon, director of membership and events for the Denison Chamber, said Thursday.

For this year’s event, Bohannon said organizers chose “A Festival of Christmas Trees” as the parade theme. Bohannon said organizers decided on the theme as it gave a lot of flexibility to float builders and groups.

“It just sounded like a fun thing to do, and you can do a lot with a Christmas tree,” she said.

Dance Xplosion won the grand prize and best business awards for the parade, while St. Patrick’s Catholic Church Knights of Columbus was awarded first place, Momentum Youth Group won second place and Denison Dance Academy took home third place.

Bohannon said about 75 organizations and groups signed up to participate, with thousands of individuals marching and riding in the parade. These groups represented area churches, nonprofits, businesses, schools and other organizations, she said.

“Even the Touch of Gold (band) is going to have 150 people right there,” she said. “In total, it is probably a couple thousand.”

Leading up to the start of the parade, Bohannon said the Chamber had many calls from parade goers and participants on the status of the parade due to expected poor weather. Despite rain earlier in the day, and more forecast in the evening, Bohannon told them the event would go on as scheduled.

In recent memory, the parade was last rescheduled in 2013 following a heavy winter storm that delayed both the Denison and Sherman parades by a week.

Among the participants who braved the rain and cold to participate in Thursday’s festivities was Mattie Quate with Dance Xplosion. Quate, who has participated in 11 Denison Christmas parades, said the weather didn’t cause her any hesitation and she always planned to participate.

“It has been a bit harder to get ready this year, but I think it has been a good day, if a little cold,” she said.

However, Quate said she did have to re-evaluate the dance studio’s float and what would be the best decorations for the wet weather. In addition to the float, Quate said her dance studio also had dancers on foot while younger participants rode along in small wagons.

The wet weather also gave representatives from the Denison Animal Welfare Group, which won the award for business display in 2017, slight pause, as the organization’s adoption trailer became wet and slippery in the rain. Despite this, volunteers were still able to decorate the trailer for the season.

“We are always looking for an opportunity to get our puppies out there,” DAWG President Stephanie Phillips said.

Along with volunteers, 11 animals that were up for adoption also rode along the parade route.

“The parade is great for bringing people out and giving them a sense of community and a reminder of why their home town is great,” Phillips said.

However, the large draw for the holiday event was likely a visit by the jolly old elf himself. Santa Claus joined the festivities to help light the Christmas tree in Heritage Park and stayed to ride along in the parade. Despite being used to the cold weather of the North Pole, Santa said the rain got to him.

“It has slowed me down and acted on my sinuses this year,” Santa said with a laugh. “It can get Santa down, but I’ve never missed a year, and I don’t plan to start.”