EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard  First Street Academy of Dance, "The Senior Dance Company" entertains with skill and grace during Christmas in Marinette Saturday at the Stephenson Public Library in Marinette. Heather Olsen is their dance instructor.
EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
First Street Academy of Dance, "The Senior Dance Company" entertains with skill and grace during Christmas in Marinette Saturday at the Stephenson Public Library in Marinette. Heather Olsen is their dance instructor.

MARINETTE — The Christmas in Marinette celebration brought joy and smiles to area spectators and participants, who lined the street to get a glimpse of Santa Claus and kick off the holiday season this Saturday.

"We could never have asked for a better weather day for Santa and Christmas in Marinette," said part-time Mrs. Claus and event organizer Judy Alwin. "It's been a very, very good day." 

More than 30 parade floats and groups participated in the annual parade down Main Street, playing Christmas music, handing out candy and wishing parade spectators a happy holiday season. Standouts from the parade included the scout troop leading with flagbearers; the Stephenson Public Library's representatives dressed as characters from C.S. Lewis's classic novel, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; the Tri-County Dog Training Academy's troop of parade dogs; and the best-in-show winners, the Marinette Marines marching band. Santa Claus brought up the rear for the finale, in the Marinette Fire Department's ladder truck. Santa Claus climbed aboard the fire truck after an appearance at the fire department's open house prior to the parade. 

Following the parade, much of the crowd headed off to the Stephenson Public Library, which was decorated to match its parade walkers. The First Street Academy of Dance entertained with dance routines choreographed to Christmas songs, including "O Come All Ye Faithful," "What Child is This?" and "Mary Did You Know?" The library also offered hot chocolate, cookies and crafting opportunities for children, before Santa Claus made his appearance to read storybooks for the crowd. Hot chocolate and cookies were served by Friends of the Library group members.

Next door to the library, the Marinette Welcome Center held an open house during the afternoon, with a chance to win door prizes and to listen to live music from the Senior Moments Band, featuring Bob Grager and his friends. The Marinette Women's Club served refreshments, including sweets and punch. 

The 2017 Holiday Craft Sale ran for much of Saturday as well, and featured vendors gathered together in the Marinette Middle School gymnasium with live serenades of Christmas music by Salvation Army volunteers and others. Many of the vendors were new this year, and eager to become a part of the annual celebration. 

"It's going very well," said Vicki DeCleene, who brought her chalk paint art supply stand and home decor pieces from the Main Street Antique Mall to the craft fair. "I've been doing this for years, and now I've got the courage to get out and about, and maybe start teaching some painting classes in the future." 

Katie Brown, an independent LuLaRoe Fashion consultant, brought her LuLaRoe boutique clothing to the craft sale for the first time as well. 

"I've heard nothing but good things from customers," she said. 

As the day ended, Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and Shelley the Elf walked with Marinette Mayor Steve Genisot across the footbridge from the welcome center to Stephenson Island, where Major Carol Lemirand and the group led the crowd in song for "Jingle Bells" and "We Wish You A Merry Christmas."

"What a great night to be outside and officially welcome and set off the season here," Genisot said. 

Together, the group lit the island's official Christmas tree. Many other lit, decorated trees on the island were adopted for the annual decoration contest by area businesses and organizations. Genisot, Santa Claus and members of the City Council were in charge of judging the trees. 

Alwin reminded those who were not able to attend the Christmas celebrations that there is still an opportunity to get in the holiday spirit, as well as help out the less fortunate. The Marinette Welcome Center is serving as the collection site for the Wisconsin Department of Tourism’s annual charity drive, the “Big Bundle Up Campaign,” for the program’s seventh year running.

The Big Bundle Up Campaign invites residents to drop off new or gently used, clean coats, sweaters, hats, mittens and other warm clothing items between Nov. 16 and Jan. 2 to give to families through local charities and organizations. Items can be left in the large, decorated box inside the Marinette Welcome Center.

"I think we're going to surpass our quota for the year," Alwin said. "The box is already overflowing." 

To date, the Big Bundle Up Campaign has collected more than 103,400 warm winter items for donation to those in need. If a local business is interested in being another collection site for the warm clothing items, they may contact the Marinette Welcome Center at 715-732-4333. Visit travelwisconsin.com for a full listing of donation sites.