ST. CHARLES – Long before the street lights went out and the tree lights came on, before the first flashing lights of a police car, parade-goers staked out their territory for the St. Charles Electric Christmas Parade.
Saturday night saw both sides of Main Street packed with children and adults of all ages, from babies to toddlers on their daddies' shoulders to grandmothers in motorized wheelchairs.
They oohed and aahed and applauded everything from Santa on horseback, motorcyclists wearing Santa hats and revving their engines, a disco float dancing to the Bee Gees and Aurora Area Shrine Club zipping around in little cars.
Steve Washer of South Elgin said he and the family have been coming to the parade for "many many years."
"We' ve got multiple generations in the family coming down here to watch it," Washer said, hustling to their meet-up spot.
Mary Ann Carlson of St. Charles was with her daughter Kelli Hopkins and her 4-year-old twins and year-old baby – and it would be their first time seeing the parade.
"It's just a wonderful holiday gathering and it's a good kickoff to the season," Carlson said. "And it's nice to be out on a beautiful night. I'm told it's very cool. We're excited."
It was a first time for Vince and Jessica Brandonisio of Elburn and their friends Jason and Dana Adams of Geneva, and their children. Brandonisio's family owns Aquaviva Winery in Maple Park and the Aquaviva Winery Wine Tasting Bar at 214 W. Main St., St. Charles
"This is our first electric light parade and we're pretty much excited," Brandonisio said.
Bill Misner of South Elgin never missed the parade, so when he married his wife, Jenny, he brought her to see it.
"It's wonderful, just wonderful," Bill Misner said.
"I never heard about until we got married and then he says, 'We gotta go,'" Jenny Misner said. "We love Christmas so it's the best way to get it started."
Customers of the Buzz Barbershop, 208 W. Main St., got a special treat on parade night, with Buzz Bleachers set outside.
Owner Teri Debates, who bought the business two years ago, put bleachers out for both last year's electric parade and the St. Patrick's Day parade as a service to customers.
"For my customers and their children to sit there [or] watch from inside," Debates said. "I love the parade."
The parade follows the Lighting of the Lights ceremony Friday night in the First Street Plaza, starting the city's Holiday Homecoming event to mark the beginning of the holiday season.
Holiday Homecoming is organized by the Downtown St. Charles Partnership. See downtownstcharles.org for more information.