Raleigh, N.C. — Record-setting cold didn't keep tens of thousands of people from the streets of downtown Raleigh Saturday morning for the largest Christmas parade between Washington, D.C., and Atlanta.
About 50,000 people lined the 1.2 mile route when the parade kicked off around 9:30 a.m. By then, temperatures had gotten up into the 30s after an overnight low of 21 degrees.
“My nose is running, my feet are cold, but it’s all worth it,” spectator Stephanie Pitt said.
Four helium balloons and 123 units were featured in the parade. The grand marshal was Major League Baseball star, Josh Hamilton, a product of Athens Drive High School in Raleigh.
Santa was the closing act of the parade, which starts at Hillsborough and St. Mary's streets, goes past the State Capitol Building and ends along Fayetteville Street.
Despite the cold, hot dog vendors starting setting up early on the sidewalks, and Mayor Charles Meeker wore running shorts for an early morning jog down Fayetteville Street.
"You know, it's not that cold if you keep moving," Meeker said.
Coffee shops along the parade route prepared for a busy day.
The Oxford, which recently opened in the Fayetteville Street location previously occupied by Yancy’s restaurant, will open an hour early to serve hot chocolate, coffee and croissants to chilly paradegoers.
“We have everyone that works for us, plus some that will work just that day. It’s going to be pretty busy – we hope anyway,” The Oxford’s Lauren Jannik said.
City Java, also on Fayetteville Street, was also preparing for the parade.
“It’s going to be really packed. Lines are going to be out the door,” employee Tia Bethea said.
Raleigh resident Nikia Sharp went shopping to get her children prepared for the parade.
“I’ve already bought new scarves and toboggans, so they’re ready,” Sharp said.