The small town of Medora knows how to celebrate Christmas in a big way.

To kick off the holiday season, the community came together this past weekend for its annual Christmas Festival, beginning Friday night with a tree-lighting ceremony, caroling and live nativity outside the Medora Public Library.

With plenty of sunshine and mild temperatures Saturday, people came out early to check out a variety of vendors set up along Main Street selling food, crafts, antiques and Christmas gift items.

Local musical groups including Scarlet 2 White, Limestone Ramblers, Driven and Melissa Ann Out of the Box provided a soundtrack of Christian, gospel, country, rock and Christmas music during the day.

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Saturday afternoon was the main event with hundreds of locals and out-of-towners gathering along Perry Street to watch the Christmas parade, a long-standing tradition for many.

The festivities wrapped up Saturday night with the Silent Night Auction and Christmas Ball.

This year marked the 45th year for the parade. There were more than 50 entries, up from recent years, including walking units, emergency vehicles, floats, antique cars and horse teams.

But the most popular of all was Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus standing on a float in front of a decorated gingerbread house. The jolly couple smiled and waved to all the children waiting to see them.

After the parade, the crowd headed to the library so kids could visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus, have their picture taken and most important tell Santa what they want for Christmas.

Tabitha Payne of Seymour, brought her two boys Isaac, 7, and Lathaniel Payne, 5, to the parade.

“They are both beyond excited to see Santa,” she said.

Both boys said they wanted Santa to bring them remote-controlled helicopters for Christmas.

“They can’t wait,” Tabitha added.

This year’s parade was the first time in 40 years that Medora resident Larry Bennett wasn’t holding the microphone and serving as announcer. Fellow Medora resident Tim Reynolds took over the duties this year allowing Bennett to retire and serve as grand marshal in the parade.

Reynolds said he loved seeing everyone come together in Medora to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

“To come together and do that is just a wonderful thing. It gives you a warm fuzzy feeling,” he said. “It’s really special, especially if you grew up around here and you’ve lived here your whole life and remember going to it when you were a kid.”

Carolyn Lynch of Medora has been attending the parade since it started 45 years ago.

This year she got to watch it with her great-grandchildren. She was in charge of holding a plastic bag, which the kids filled with candy and toys that were distributed by people in the parade.

“I just like seeing all the people,” she said.

She remembers one year when it was so cold, the parade almost didn’t happen.

“It was back when they used to have marching bands and the kids couldn’t play their instruments it was so cold,” she said. “My daughter was a cheerleader but they couldn’t cheer.”

The festival has improved over the last few years, Reynolds said.

“We’ve made some changes and got new blood on the committee,” he said.

He also was pleased with Saturday’s turnout.

“We’ve got a great crowd out here today,” he said. “The weather really helps.”

Before the parade had even begun, Reynolds was already looking to recruit more people to get involved next year.

“We do need more vendors and more parade entries. The parade is the main thing,” he said. “The parade is what this is all about so we want to focus on building it up.”

At a glance

Winners in the Medora Holiday Home Lights contest for the best residential light display were:

First place, Vicky Pope; Second place, Kristie Guthrie; Third place, Rick Milligan

2017 Medora Christmas Parade Prince and Princess: Ayden Edwards, 5, and Brooklyn Wilkerson, 12.

Winners in the 45th annual Medora Christmas Parade:

Walking units: First place, Jing-A-Ling Snow Bunnies; Second place, Hornets Nest Reuse Store; Third place, Sons of the American Revolution Color Guard.

Emergency Vehicles – First place, Monroe Township Volunteer Fire Department; Second place, Brownstown Police Department

Special feature – First place, Miniature horse team and carriage driven by Norm Wesley; Second place, Santa’s Favorite Jackson County Elf, driven by Stephanie Wetzel; Third place, Toyland Express driven by Rascal Robinson

Auto – First place, 1952 Plymouth Wagon driven by Charlie Bannister; Second place, 2002 Plymouth Prowler entered by the Perezes; Third place, Plymouth Scamp driven by Kegan Bannister

Floats – School, First place – Medora After-school program; Church, First place – Medora Wesleyan Church; General, First place – Zone 8 Three Percenters Patriot Group, Second place – Dusty Johnson and family “Have Yourself a Magical Christmas,” Third place – Roy and Paula Helton and grandkids.

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.