AUBURN — With one of the largest floats in the event’s 18-year history, Vulcraft Division of Nucor won the top prize in Tuesday night’s Christmas Parade through downtown Auburn.

The St. Joe-based industry mounted its elaborate entry on a flatbed semi-trailer to win first prize among floats in the traditional holiday event.

“Their float was just over the top,” said Mike Littlejohn, organizer of the parade sponsored by the Downtown Auburn Business Association.

The parade, held annually on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, returned following a one-year absence due to the COVID pandemic in 2020. It drew a large throng that lined the streets around the south and east sides of the courthouse square on a chilly-but-dry evening.

“It always been a good crowd … but it was amazing,” Littlejohn said about the spectators for the parade. Police estimated the count at 3,000 people, compared to the typical 1,500 to 2,000, Littlejohn said.

The parade ended with Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus arriving on a new float. When they reached the reviewing stand, “They were bombarded by kids wanting picture after picture,” Littlejohn said.

The first-place award for a decorated vehicle went to the DeKalb County Highway Department for its snowplow truck, decorated with thousands of lights.

The top award for a walking group went to Ratio Dance Studio’s entry of a float followed by a troupe of dancers.

The Waterloo Volunteer Fire Department kept its grip on the traveling trophy for fire departments with its Elvis-themed entry.

Other awards for floats went to “Grandma and Grandpa Build a Float” by Leonard and Linda Kazmirski of South Bend, in second place, and a third-place entry by County Line Church of God-Auburn campus.

Among decorated vehicles, a Christmas barn mounted over a pickup truck won second place for Jeff’s Auto and Towing. Third place went to Sue and Herschel Wilhelm for their antique truck with a gingerbread house on its flatbed.

A cart entered by Bill and Cindy Iliffe and pulled by two ponies placed second among walking groups. Third place went to the Bar-None Saddle Club for its horse patrol.

Following the parade, a shoulder-to-shoulder throng watched as a 9-year-old boy threw a switch to light the traditional Frosty the Snowman display on the side of the James Foundation building.

Many from the crowd then walked two blocks west to see the annual lighting of a giant Christmas tree in the James Cultural Plaza.

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