AVON PARK - Earl Lamp has been to every Avon Park Christmas parade since 2000 - even the years it has rained.
The phalanx of floats spreading holiday cheer, be it fake snow or bubbles, kick start the Lamps' holiday season.
Over the years, the number of parade floats have gone up, he observed. The Avon Park resident also has seen more dance floats perform.
Lamp was one of thousands of residents who lined up in downtown Avon Park Monday to cheer 96 floats, which wound down several blocks of Main Street, starting the Christmas parade season in Highlands County.
Participants came in trailers hitched by trucks, in semis, on foot, bicycles, roller blades and even a unicycle.
The theme was "Candy Cane and Christmas Carols." There was plenty of both, festooned on floats and blaring out of loud speakers.
Some of the familiar sights were also there.
Long's Air Conditioning came with its Carrier chopper flipping its wings as fake snow slowly settled on its nose.
Wells Motor Co. brought its custom-made Dodge Omni, which zig-zagged side to side, as drivers on both ends steered their wheels.
Toby's Clowns injected some comic moments. A clown, wearing an iPad Air sign, waved a board as though trying to get rid of a certain smell from a bodily function.
Two Highlands County Sheriff's Office's K-9 dogs greeted the crowds while several dance studio troupes entertained those gathered.
This year, the downtown Mall has a new addition - around 40 Christmas trees sponsored by businesses sat decked out in the Candy Cane Lane area.
The idea has been sponsored by the City of Avon Park, the Avon Park Chamber of Commerce and the Main Street CRA, and the trees will be on display until Dec. 27.
Some of the trees have themes tied to the businesses that have sponsored them. The Sandwich Depot tree has Christmas coffee cups hanging as ornaments, and attorney Parke Sutherland's display is distinctively Floridian - fake palm trees draped in Christmas lights while a mini Santa, wearing North Pole gear, rests on a hammock.
Magda Rivera, whose son, Ricardo, owns Charming Thrift Store, which opened in August in downtown Avon Park, was handing out lollipops and candy canes next to their Christmas tree.
"It's a good way to advertise your business," she smiled, as passersby stopped to get their choice of sweet treats.
Josh Johnson felt the Christmas tree village added a nice touch to the festive air. He comes to the parade every year for his 8-year-old daughter, Amara.
"You got to keep your children happy," he grinned. It's also a good place to mingle and meet old friends.
"I meet a bunch of different people," he said.
While Jandell Marcano was waiting for Santa Claus, his younger brother, Jarielle, was also celebrating his sixth birthday Monday.
"That's all fun," he smiled, when asked what his favorite part was.
While Jarielle was probably still busy opening birthday presents, at least another kid had a certain yearning when she saw wrapped boxes under the trees in the Candy Cane Lane area.
"Oh my Gosh! I want a present," she shouted, walking past the decorated trees.