Clermont residents showed Saturday night they are ready to greet the holiday season as the city held its fourth annual parade and tree lighting ceremony at Town Hall Park.
The parade featured many community residents riding in vintage cars, throwing out candy to spectators and the arrival of Santa Claus. Santa didn’t arrive in his traditional sleigh, but instead, in a 1966 Cadillac de Ville convertible.
“It’s nice for the community to come together and have something like this for the kids,” said Santa Claus, aka Lamar Summer. “It’s something I hope never gets lost.”
After Santa made his arrival, visitors enjoyed hot chocolate and gathered around the fire to help knock off the chill in the air as the tree was lit.
The kids lined up to meet Santa and tell him what they want for Christmas.
“It means a lot to have a community come together and enjoy the season,” said Seth Weaver, a Clermont city councilman and organizer of the event. “We try to keep it simple. It’s a small town.
“The kids love to see Santa Claus, and I’m 33 years old and still love to see Santa Claus. It’s a good opportunity for them to see him here in a rural setting by a fire.”
Weaver also said he knows the meaning of Christmas goes beyond the tree lighting and parade.
“I call this the bedroom community of the northern end of the state,” he said. “We’re very fortunate to have the population we have and the people we have. We’re very blessed for that.
“Christmas is the time of year to be with people. It still means to me that Christ was born. ... We (Clermont) don’t have a lot to give away, and we aren’t very wealthy, but we have a lot of friends here.”
Clermont resident Todd Summer said Saturday marked his third year of driving Santa in the parade, and it’s special every year with his father playing Santa.
“The community celebrates this and the community celebrates the real meaning of Christmas,” he said. “It makes it fun for all of us and we enjoy it. We celebrate and we have Santa, but we do know the real meaning of Christmas.”
Jessica Dills traveled from Dahlonega to be with her family at the parade. She said it is a tradition for her family to accompany her grandmother to the annual event.
Dills’ son, Bentley Batson, 3, was one of the first to talk with Santa once the parade ended. She said it was his first experience with Santa and he was “extremely” excited to meet him.
She said he asked Santa for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figure and a black and green toy car to match the figure.
“We (family) celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ,” she said about what Christmas means to her. “Christmas is about giving to others and enjoying the blessings you do have because we are blessed with a big wonderful family.”
Dennis Machida celebrated the ceremony with his wife, Farrah, and two sons, Sam, 6, and Greg, 3. His son, Greg, was able to meet and take a picture with Santa.
“He was excited. He was following Santa and was waiting to give him a big hug,” Machida said. “He wasn’t big on words. He wasn’t scared of him. ... Following him and giving him a big hug was pretty meaningful.
“He’s getting to that age where he recognizes everything and he’s having fun with the (Christmas) spirit and season and festivities that are involved.”