The high school marching band passed. Legions of teenage dancers kicked their heels to holiday tunes. A firetruck sounded its horn.
Not bad, as parades go. But something — someone — was missing from Sumner’s Santa Parade on Saturday.
A whisper passed among families lining Main Street.
Where’s Santa? He should have been on that fire truck, the veterans of parades past knowingly advised.
Then, just as some of them started shrugging and looking for the exits, that red suit, white beard and jolly belly appeared. Santa brought up the parade’s tail on foot, ho-ho-hoing his way through town.
Give him a minute.
It takes time to walk a parade when every child in Sumner wants to hug the big man. Santa had a smile for each of them.
His encore closed out an annual celebration that attracted generations of families to downtown for a taste of the holiday spirit.
“I liked watching the best,” said John Minshall, 5, who wore a wide smile on a Main Street corner as he returned waves from each of the parade’s marchers.
His 7-year-old brother, Ethan, marched with his Cub Scout den. So do did their dad, Ben, of Bonney Lake, a den leader.
“We got lucky with the weather,” Ben Minshall said, looking up to threatening skies that did not drop rain during the parade.
Sumner’s parade drew out two fleets of four-footed and furry creatures, but they weren’t Santa’s reindeer. They were little ponies decked out for Christmas.
Debbi Steltz and Tracy Gilbertson of the Pierce County Miniature Horse and Pony Club dressed up their miniature donkeys like Mr. and Mrs. Claus. The equine Santa wore a red velvet suit from neck to hoof and a fluffy white beard draped from his snout.
Was that Donkey Claus or Santa Horse?
Doesn’t matter. Steltz and Gilbertson weren’t picky.
Their pets were almost as popular as Santa himself, judging by the oooohs and ahhhhs from the crowds on the sidewalks.
“They just can’t believe he has pants on, and a beard,” Steltz said.
Santa’s work never ends this time of year. The man in the red suit was Trever Waltos of Puyallup, sporting a natural beard he bleaches white for the season. His Mrs. Claus — Heidi Waltos — said he had to hustle out to another Christmas event in Snohomish County after the parade.
But Santa had to be on exceptionally good behavior in Sumner.
His mother-in-law, Nancy Boyle, said she had not missed a Sumner Santa Parade in 20 years.
Christmas, of course, is a big deal in their house. Heidi Waltos said the family starts decorating in October. Their 8-year-old daughter, Sarah, joined Santa in the Sumner parade as an elf.
Heidi, Nancy and 11-year-old Jacob Waltos watched the parade pass from lawn chairs they set up on a sidewalk.
Boyle, 63, smiled remembering the days when her son-in-law put on that costume to delight his own kids.
“He takes it very seriously,” Boyle said. “You’d hear his bells ringing. The door would open, and Santa’s here!”Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646