ST. CHARLES – Electricity was in the air Saturday night in St. Charles as parade floats lit up Main Street in the annual Electric Christmas Parade.
Crowds gasped when the street lights along Main Street went dark. Families lined the streets despite the 26-degree chill to cheer on parade entries such as the St. Charles North and East High School bands, many of whom wrapped their instruments in lights and glow sticks.
Floats included Hotel Baker's lighted, moving dragon that breathed smoke, a lighted fish hooked to a boat strung with lights and Colonial Cafe's lit-up ice cream cone. The final float carried Santa and Mrs. Claus.
"Oh my gosh, it was so good," said Susan Escamilla, who watched the parade for the first time with her children and father. "We just moved here. This is a small town – it's clean, it's safe and it's just a dream come true."
She said the parade was a great way to wrap up her family's Thanksgiving festivities. She said her favorite floats were those made by Cub Scouts. Cub Scout Pack 151's float was a firetruck strung with lights, and Cub Scout Pack 146's float was a lighted boat with a lighted fish hooked to a string of lights hanging from the boat.
Her father, Buzz Wheeler, said he enjoyed the Filling Station float the most.
Sydney Marino, 21, came from Carol Stream this year to watch the parade with her family, including her aunts who live in St. Charles. She said it's been a family tradition for the last five or six years.
They set out about an hour before the parade started to make sure they got a good spot.
"It's just fun to come out with the family," Marino said. "And it's close to home."
Ryan Newendyke, 16, helped made a float for Pwnage Robotics, a multi-community youth robotics club based out of St. Charles. The float included a lit-up robot that took the team to the top 3 percent in world competitions.
He said the float that went down Main Street Saturday was put together last-minute because the computer on the original float crashed. He said the original float included 7,000 lights, and the robot demonstrated shooting a basketball.
But Newendyke's team made do with a lighted truck, instead, with the prized robot riding on the top of the truck's cab.
The parade wrapped up Holiday Homecoming events wrapped up Saturday with the annual parade winding down through the downtown St. Charles area. The annual Lighting of the Lights Ceremony and a free afternoon movie at the Arcada Theatre kicked off the events Friday.
Colleen Niverth and Jeff Hanson watched the parade with Camron Hanson, 4, who witnessed the parade for the first time Saturday. Niverth said they braved the cold because they had been stuck inside all day.
"It's something to do free of charge," Hanson said.
"And he's at that age now where he likes that stuff," Niverth added.
Larry Schnitker of Wasco attended the parade with his wife, daughters and grandchildren. He said the parade has been a family tradition for at least four years, and they attend mainly because of its uniqueness.
"It's different, that's why [we attend]," he said. "And it's cold. We like the cold."