A beautiful day welcomed more than 1,000 to the , and organizers said Thursday it may have been the most people ever to attend the event.
"Actually, from what anyone can tell, this was the largest crowd," Scott Walker, executive director of the , wrote in an email Thursday.
From town officials to parade participants, the Bel Air Christmas Parade turnout was the talk of the town.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many people at the parade,” Bel Air Commissioner said during Monday's .
Walker said the day usually averages around 700 people, but he said there were about 1,500 people there this year.
“It was way more people than we’ve had in the past couple years,” Walker said, later acknowledging it may have been the largest in the parade's 22-year history.
The only downside to having more people in attendance than anticipated, Walker said, was not having enough free cookies at the tree lighting celebration in after the parade.
“No one was upset,” Walker said.
Town Commissioner said she was also surprised at the number of people who stuck around after the parade ended.
While there may have been more people than usual, that didn't seem to alter the small town feel, according to Walker.
“The town’s been doing this for 22 years. It is certainly not as grand as the Fourth of July parade … but it’s more of your local, hometown, Main Street-type of thing," Walker said. “It’s what I consider your perfect small town kind of parade.”
Ann Leighty of Bel Air has been coming to the Christmas parade for four years. She said her daughter was marching in the parade in the marching band, but said she would bring her family to the parade even if her children were not in it.
“It is a nice, family-oriented activity and it’s well put together,” Leighty said.
Walker said the town of Bel Air, along with the direction of parade coordinator Michael Blum from Martino Blum, plays a huge role in the success of the Christmas celebration and parade.
“The town helps a lot … most of the bands and performers are the same each year,” Walker said. “One of the great things about the parade is that people know what they’re going to see.”
Walker said social media played a large role in drawing crowds to the celebration as well.
“The great thing about the digital age that we’re in now is that Facebook and Twitter provide really good anecdotal evidence as to what’s going on. You can see people mentioning it.”
He said from an advertising standpoint, Downtown Alliance keeps it pretty simple because word spreads from neighbor to neighbor and through social media. He said the Christmas celebration even draws people from outside the area.
“I got a phone call today—someone’s coming from Laurel,” Walker said.
To Walker, the Bel Air Christmas celebration sets everything in motion for the holiday season and brings people together.
“This is about community. When I think of community, I think of everyone coming together, watching, having fun … It is the most satisfaction I get out of this job—seeing the community all together," Walker said.
The parade included marching bands from most of the local high schools, Christmas characters, team mascots, Ravens cheerleaders, performers, Bel Air officials and ended with the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus.
In addition to the parade, there was music, a tree lighting and a bonfire.