Rosy cheeks, sniffles, laughter and about 200 people bundled up in coats and hats watched the return of the Memphis Christmas Parade in Whitehaven Saturday morning.
They also caught Tootsie Rolls and Skittles flying out of parade cars and Santa hats.
"It's an exciting time of the year and we look forward to it every year," Tyrice Cartwright, 44, said as she cheered on parade floats with her three children at the intersection of Elvis Presley Boulevard and Shelby Drive. "This is something that always starts the holiday season, so I'm always excited to come and be a part of the community."
Cartwright, who is originally from Nashville but lives in Olive Branch, has taken her children to the parade for the last eight years to join the Whitehaven community, where her husband was raised.
"Make sure you put this on your calendar every year," Cartwright said right before she returned to cheering on the marchers in the parade.
As the sun shined, but breaths could be seen in the air, men, women and children lined up and down Elvis Presley Boulevard around 10 a.m. for the Christmas parade in Whitehaven to showcase schools, businesses, dance teams and bands across Shelby County.
The parade featured Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, State Senator London Lamar, dozens of bands, cheer teams, color guards and Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps from Memphis-Shelby County Schools including White Station High School, Oakhaven High School and Cordova High School.
After two years on pause from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Whitehaven Christmas Parade is back for its 26-year tradition which attracted families from across the county to watch and cheer on youth.
The Academy for Youth Empowerment, directed by unofficial Whitehaven Mayor Hazel Moore, sponsors the parade which is one of several outreach initiatives by the organization.
Schevette Gill, 41, joined the crowd Saturday morning to watch her son in the parade as part of the drumline for Southwind High School.
This is Gill's first time at the parade.
"I love it," Gill said. "It's a little chilly but these are good memories."
Gill brought along her sister Beunka Chavannes, 29, who has seen the parade before. They both agreed to attend again, even if they have no children in the parade.
Gill and Chavannes said they appreciated the diversity of the parade and seeing the different age groups participate.
Whether kids from Pre-Kindergarten to high school or young adults to seniors, hundreds of people across Shelby County walk (or ride in Corvettes) in the parade dancing, marching and throwing handfuls of lollipops and chocolate into the crowds of eager spectators.
Children, and some adults, were seen diving to the ground to grab candy as Christmas music played, including "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," by The Jackson 5, which was on repeat by many floats.
Tiger-striped outfits, red and gold tinsel on cars and holiday wreaths sticking to hoods lit up the two-hour parade which ended at Laudeen Drive.
Like Gill, Tekemia and Derick Rich stood on the parade's sidelines to watch Tekemia's daughter dance in the event with Power Center Academy Middle - Hickory Hill.
"This is our first time coming to the Whitehaven Christmas Parade," Tekemia, 49, said just as her daughter danced past her.
Derick, who joined Tekemia, said he plans to attend next year as well.
"I feel good out here," Derick, 60, said. "We're in some nice brisk weather watching these kids, it's a nice day. Everybody's happy and nobody's acting a fool, that's what's up."
After the last parade floats and bands exited Elvis Presley Boulevard, children were heard giggling, eating Laffy Taffy and asking "Is it over?"
The Memphis Christmas Parade in Whitehaven is over— until next year.
Dima Amro covers the suburbs for The Commercial Appeal and can be reached at Dima.Amro@commercialappeal.com or on Twitter @AmroDima.
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Whitehaven Christmas Parade returned— Mayor, senator, MSCS join in