MADISON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A beloved holiday tradition made a comeback on Friday.
Madison‘s annual Christmas parade marched along Main Street once again after being canceled last year because of the pandemic, CBS2’s Kiran Dhillon reported.READ MORE: Post-Christmas Return Blitz At Area Malls Reveals Possible COVID-Influenced Trend: Some Things Just Don't Fit
With their eyes wide and their smiles large, hundreds of kids watched in awe as St. Nick showed up for the parade.
“Fun! It was cool because it was the real Santa,” Sofia Temarsico said.
“I said, ‘Hello, Santa, I love you!'” another kid said.
Among the people in the crowd was an excited Thomas Piccolo.
“He was big. He was red. He was fat. He was jolly. He had eight reindeer,” Piccolo said.
Piccolo’s dad and uncle used to be in the parade when they were kids. Both said watching their children enjoy the celebrations now is incredibly heartwarming.
“My dad owned a delicatessen in Madison, Chippy’s, so we used to be in the parade, promoting Chippy’s, and now we get to be there with them and watch them enjoy it,” Anthony Piccolo said.READ MORE: Travel Woes Worsen, Around 175 Flights Canceled At JFK, LaGuardia, Newark Airports Sunday
The annual gathering has been a staple in the community for decades. Every year, dozens of local groups march through the streets on Black Friday, before the event culminates with a tree lighting.
Last year, COVID-19 forced the parade to be canceled, with Santa only able to ride through the streets and wave at residents.
This year, organizers said the event was meant to honor those who passed from COVID, as well as Carmine Toto, the man who ran the parade since 1979 and died of cancer in September. His family vowed to keep his love for Christmas alive.
“His passion and heart for Madison and the Christmas spirit is passed on to his family and to me and to the whole Madison community,” Carmine Toto III said.
Meanwhile, residents and visitors said the parade being back was a great way to bring the community back together.
“A great little parade, right? Great little town showing its spirit and everyone coming out for it and it’s fun,” Chris Auzins said.
“It’s so important for everyone. It kicks off the holiday season, right? It gets everyone in the spirit,” Katie Keating added.
They called the parade the official kick off to Christmas.MORE NEWS: Citymeals On Wheels Celebrates 40th Anniversary
CBS2’s Kiran Dhillon contributed to this report.