BLOOMINGTON - Baby, it was cold outside Saturday morning.
But it didn't stop babies, children, parents, and grandchildren from braving the 19-degree temperature to watch the annual Jaycees Christmas Parade.
The 75th parade, which began near Kingsley Junior High School in Normal and ended in downtown Bloomington, started an hour earlier than the traditional 10 a.m., but parade-goers said it was worth it.
Santa and Mrs. Claus - as always - rode in a fire truck at the end of the parade, and were greeted with cheers and fanfare.
Children scampered to catch candy tossed their way. Some even took off their cozy mittens and found their mouths under tightly wrapped scarves.
Some of those kids belonged to Dorothy Marsh, a Bloomington mother of 12, who watched the parade with three generations of her family. It was easy to see that she and her clan were experienced parade-goers.
They had a giant ground cover, chairs to sit on, blankets to wrap in, and steaming hot chocolate and coffee to drink. The five grandchildren and their families came prepared with money to donate to the Toys for Tots campaign and nonperishable food for the food drive.
"We always sit here," said Laura TeVoert, one of Marsh's children, adding that everyone in the family knows to meet at the Wendy's on South Main Street for the Jaycees parade (the family's designated spot for the community's Labor Day Parade is Olive and Lee streets).
Further north, a chance to pet a Christmas-attired dog was all it took to get 3-year-old Branda Martin to scurry from under cozy blankets, and out of the warm van with her mom, Diane, and 1-year-old brother, Blain.
The three mostly sat snuggled together with the van's back door open until Town and Country Kennel Club came with the friendly dogs.
Several candy givers brought treats right up to the van, praising the family for their clever arrangement. "You've got the best seat in the house," they were told.
"We just saw the people over there parked this way (facing the parade with the back door open) and did it too," said Diane Martin.
Jerry Erb and other members of the McLean County Wheelers bicycling group didn't have the same kind of protection, straddling their bikes in bicycling attire (but with Santa hats covering their helmets) before they rode the parade route. Erb noted the cold, saying, "We might choose Labor Day or Memorial Day parades," next time.