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Raleigh Parade watcher: ‘It’s worth about a 120-mile drive’

About 60,000 people bundled up as they watched the WRAL-TV Raleigh Christmas parade on Saturday morning.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — About 60,000 people bundled up as they watched the WRAL-TV Raleigh Christmas parade on Saturday morning. Parade organizers hoped to keep them downtown all day.

Nearly 120 units – including 40 floats and 20 marching bands – volunteered to entertain the crowd. Santa Claus brought the two-hour spectacle to a close and lead parade-goers to an afternoon festival in Moore Square.

James and Nancy Zier drove from Wilmington to see the parade.

"It's worth about a 120-mile drive," Nancy Zier said.

"This is our tradition," James Zier said. "We always hit the Christmas parade. It's almost like New York with the skyscrapers here."

Officials with the merchants' association, which organized the parade, said they hoped the day-long activities would promote downtown businesses.

Owner Sara Coleman said if even a fraction of the parade crowd stopped by, it would mean wonders for her new cupcake shop on Glenwood Avenue.

"It's huge, because it brings people down who might not be in this area regularly," Coleman said. "I think it gives us additional exposure to those customers that we may not see on a regular basis."

John Odom, with the Greater Raleigh Merchants' Association, said parade-goers who linger offer a golden opportunity for downtown merchants.

"They want hot chocolate, coffee and a quick sandwich," he said. "It's a good thing for the restaurants downtown. There's no doubt about it."

WRAL's Bill Leslie said the crowd was thickening hours before the parade started.

"The hot chocolate and coffee sales are booming down here on Hillsborough Street," Leslie said. "It is a wonderful day for a parade, cold but not too cold.

"Five minutes ago, Mayor Meeker jogged by in his running shorts, and said, 'Hey, I feel pretty good.' He's ready for the parade."

WRAL covered the parade from eight camera angles, including aerial shots from the Sky 5 helicopter. Mark Roberts was the street-side producer, and WRAL anchor Lynda Loveland hosted, along with Leslie.

"I'm ready, I'm warm, I've got my thermal underwear on," Leslie said. "Let the parade begin!"


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