If Friday's shopping frenzy wasn't proof of Christmas' imminence, the festive parade of light-strewn riverboats on the Oklahoma River certainly was.
For Ali Perez, who drove over from Tulsa to shop with her parents and four siblings, the day after Thanksgiving was a blend of both.
Faces pressed against the windows of the Chesapeake Finish Line Tower, the Perezes were among several dozen who paid to watch the Oklahoma City Holiday River Parade in a more comfortable setting than the thousands who lined the riverbank outside for the free event.
“I like it, it's nice,” she said, watching a riverboat adorned with a lighted Santa Claus theme scoot by before driving home. “The kids are starting to get into the Christmas spirit, seeing all the lights and Santa Claus.”
As many as 20,000 people braved the cool air — rubbing their hands together and bouncing on their legs — as the city's version of the annual holiday parade officially opened the season.
Two dozen decorated boats made their way down the river, with Santa bringing up the rear. At the end, a fireworks show dazzled the brave who stuck around for the hourlong event.
Among the favorite floats: Allied Arts' Whoville, complete with a dancing Grinch and members of the Oklahoma Children's Theatre dressed as Whos; Mercy Hospital's toy theme, with a giant Jack-in-the-box built for two; and Christmas tunes from Norman High School's trombone quartet.
With her 6-month-old daughter strapped to her chest, Melanie Hill of Oklahoma City watched with her 3-year-old son, Jackson, her husband, Michael, and his sister, Lauren Vinson, who had a toddler strapped to her as well.
“It's nice to have a free family thing to do, especially when you have people in town,” she said.
“We thought he would like it because he likes the lights,” she said of Jackson. “But he's ready to go now — he's cold.”
The river parade has slumbered by the city's boathouse district every year since 2004 except one, when a construction project there prohibited the congregation.
Mike McAuliffe, parade chairman, said it was started as a celebration of the city's first MAPS project. Money raised by sponsors goes to the Oklahoma River Foundation fund.
“The idea is to get the fund up to a million, and once we get it up to a million we'll start using the interest that the fund generates to start doing improvements on the riverfront,” he said.
He said Friday's weather — about 45 degrees, with a slight north wind — was typical, if not warm.
“We've had nights where it was 30 degrees out and the wind blowing, so actually this is kind of balmy for us,” he said.