by Sue Ann Rybak

A few inches of snow were not going to keep three-year-old Maricel Buckley, of Chestnut Hill, from seeing this year’s annual Chestnut Hill Community Holiday Parade. She knew Santa Claus was coming to Chestnut Hill on a fire truck.

Buckley was just one of the many children gathering on the Avenue to see the parade. She stood quietly on the cobblestone street, proudly wearing her reindeer hat made of foam and dressed in a blue Rugged Bear winter coat, leopard leggings, red mittens and pink and gray boots.

It was hard to hear over the commotion of the two or three automobiles, whose drivers defiantly drove around the roadblock. Finally, the Avenue became quiet, and the child heard the clip-clop of hooves hitting the cobblestone street. The Philadelphia Police Department’s Mounted Patrol Unit was leading the parade. Both adults and children began to wave and cheer.

Young Buckley’s big brown eyes sparkled with joy and anticipation, as once again, the holiday parade returned to the Hill.

About 25 organization participated in this year’s annual holiday event. New to this year’s parade was the School of Rock from Fort Washington, St. Joseph’s Prep, DanceFit in Chestnut Hill, and a crowd favorite, the Northwest Husky Club.

Natalia Buckley, Maricel’s mother, said this is their third year coming to the parade.

“My daughter loves it,” she said. “The parade is a great way to not only build community, but showcase our neighborhood.”

Bonnie Wilson-Williams, of Chestnut Hill, whose son attends J.S. Jenks Academy for the Arts and Sciences, agreed. She said the parade is a great way to bring people together. She said it has become “a tradition” for her son Elijah Museau, who is in third grade, to walk in it.

“Every year, it gets bigger,” Wilson-Williams said. “I think this year there weren’t as many people out, because of yesterday’s snow. The parade give me a sense of pride for my community, and I love representing the public school system.”

She said that both she and her sister and their mother graduated from Jenks, and now her son goes there.

Wilson-Williams added that she was grateful to the organizers, volunteers and participants – especially the Jenks staff who come out early in the morning on their day off. She added that it shows “a level of dedication to the community and students that is unexpected.”

The parade’s organizer, former Chestnut Hill Community Association president Brien Tilley, said he thought this year’s parade achieved its goal of “bringing families, friends, residents, and strangers in the community together.”

“I love hearing that people enjoyed it, and I hope it will continue to grow,” he said. “We have a lot of great ideas for next year.”

Tilley said he is incredibly grateful to all the volunteers and participants without whose help the parade and community gathering would not be possible.

“It was a great day for a holiday parade and for our community,” he said.

Laura Lucas, president of the Chestnut Hill Community Association, thanked everyone on behalf of the association for coming out to help build a stronger sense of community in Chestnut Hill.

“It was nice to see many familiar faces and those who we hope to see at our events in 2018,” she said. “My favorite part is always the gathering at the end for hot chocolate, goodies and to hear a few more selections from our local bands. It really gets everyone into the festive spirit. We hope everyone had a good time and enjoyed their visit with Santa. I’d also like to thank Brien Tilley for chairing the parade, bringing it back five years ago and keeping it going. Holiday festivities like the parade really contribute to our village atmosphere.”