GREENFIELD — When the Christmas Parade of Lights rolled through downtown Greenfield on Saturday night, 4-year-old Jack McDonald sat atop his dad’s shoulders and watched in wide-eyed wonder.
More than two dozen floats — each decorated with hundreds of tiny twinkling lights — were part of this year’s parade, which traveled a half-mile through the heart of downtown Greenfield before ending at Depot Street Park.
Hundreds of people gathered at the park afterward as Greenfield Mayor Chuck Fewell commenced with the annual tree lighting, flipping the switch to light up a tree on the park’s stage.
The entire park — including a towering, 35-foot-tall tree that was placed in the park for the holidays last month — was all aglow in festive holiday lights and decorations, setting the scene for the holidays.
“I think it’s one of the best parades we’ve ever had,” said Linda Jones, a board member for the Riley Festival, which hosts the annual parade.
The event grew into an after-party this year at the park, where fellow Riley Festival board member Tony Seiler of Greenfield Music Center provided holiday music and The Depot restaurant provided free hot chocolate and chili.
The Greenfield Parks Department provided the festive setting by decorating the park in an assortment of lighted holiday décor, with help from the Greenfield Street Department, which decorated the massive Christmas tree.
It was a quintessentially small-town Christmas scene, with hundreds of visitors flocking to the park after the parade. Some sat on hay bales around open fire pits while others stopped in the adjacent ice cream shop.
Young Jack McDonald took in the scene with all the enthusiasm a 4-year-old could muster.
“Let’s get ice cream,” he shouted from atop his dad’s shoulders as the final parade float — a vintage Greenfield Fire Department truck carrying Jolly Old St. Nick — passed his family’s spot at the end of the parade route.
Jack’s grandma, Dana Nance, a lifetime Greenfield resident, shared her grandson’s enthusiasm for the event.
“It’s just amazing how much this has grown over the years,” said Nance, 62, who said no such Christmas event existed when she was raising her own kids.
“It’s just wonderful that we can all come together to enjoy it,” she said.
Don and Gail Kiesler drove from their home in New Palestine to watch the parade with their granddaughter, Angelina Brace, and great-granddaughters Holly, 2, and Hope, 9 months.
“We came out last year and just loved it so we made sure to come again,” said Gail Kiesler, who is trying to soak in as many community events in Hancock County as possible.
Having moved to New Palestine from Fishers two years ago, she and her husband quickly fell in love with the area’s small-town charms.
“We lived in Fishers for 35 years, but it didn’t have the same feel as you have here,” she said as she and her family lined up on the sidewalk for Saturday’s parade.
“When you live in an area like this, you might take it for granted, but as newcomers we’re trying to take in as much of it as we can,” she said.
Fewell, who presided over the tree lighting in his final month as mayor, said he was overjoyed to see how much the city’s holiday celebration has grown over the years.
“In the past, we had the tree lighting on Courthouse Plaza, which was a much smaller venue, but you can’t ask for a better venue than this,” he said, gesturing to the hundreds of people and Christmas lights in Depot Street Park.
“I think it’s absolutely fantastic,” he said.