Arica Batchelor is finding it easy to get into the holiday spirit this year.
As her two children and their cousins filled bags with candy tossed from floats and expressed excitement over seeing Santa and disappointment over the end of the Miss Augusta Christmas Fantasy Parade, Batchelor just took it all in.
Holiday festivities at the family’s former home in Fairbanks, Alaska, were minimal because of the weather.
“In the winter, we’re usually cooped up. I’m taking advantage of all the parades,” she said. “It’s exciting to just get out here and get in the Christmas spirit in regular weather.”
She plans to see as many Christmas parades and take the children to as many holiday activities as she can this year to take advantage of the warmer climate.
After the marching bands, dancers, floats and carolers made their way down Broad Street, the family-friendly party continued at Augusta Common with live music, vendors and activities for children.
Batchelor took young cousins Bryan and Mackenzie Woodruff home and brought her children Bailey, 6 and Manu, 4, back to the Common at dusk.
They had never seen anything like the Christmas Light-Up Spectacular.
Neither had another cousin, Kacie Kelly, who joined the Batchelors with her children Ayden, 3, and Sophia, 8 months.
All of the children scribbled off letters to Santa a few minutes before Mayor Deke Copenhaver flipped the switch that lit up downtown Augusta.
And then the fireworks started.
At first, the children were quiet. “Wow” could barely be heard over the booms and pops as they watched the fireworks illuminate the tree. A few times, Bailey raised her arms and jumped. She especially liked the finale.
Bailey declared the whole day “a blast.”
Batchelor said the closest thing the children have seen to a fireworks display was a few fireworks the family set off for New Year’s last year, in temperatures that were at least 20 below zero.
As the lights came on and the crowds dispersed, a wistful look came over Batchelor’s face.
“It’s kind of got me emotional,” she said. “I’m missing my husband,” who is stationed with the Army at Fort Wainwright in Alaska.