Holiday cheer at Chesapeake Square

Published 9:12 pm Monday, December 3, 2018

Hundreds of people came to Chesapeake Square Mall on Saturday morning, many with their blankets, lawn chairs and travel mugs of coffee. The sky was overcast, and there was a brief bout of rain in the morning, but families still came out in droves for the seventh annual Chick-fil-A Christmas Parade.

“The group that’s here is very enthusiastic, and I don’t think (the rain) is going to scare them away,” said Sean Hess, owner and operator of the Chick-fil-A beside the mall.

Hess started the started the event years ago with former marketing director Andrew Riddick to get bring this community together with a holiday-spirited floats and costumes. The parade featured 67 different units, more than last year’s 56 and the biggest turnout yet, Hess said.

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Festivities began at the grand stage area between the JCPenney parking lot and the former Toys ‘R’ Us. Packed bleachers enjoyed a performance by RPM Dance of Suffolk, who decked the halls before the parade started.

“The kids love it for this reason right here,” Sherry Baines said as her family watched the dancers in front of the Fink’s Wrecker Services flatbed truck that served as the main stage, “and they love to watch the floats go by and see Santa.”

Children watched a float with Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Another Santa drove by in a bright-red Coca-Cola semi-truck, and another cruised in a sleek Shelby Cobra.

“I guess the reindeers got the day off,” Peg Borman, marketing director for the Chick fil A restaurant, told the audience.

Chesapeake Mayor Rick West, who was the event’s grand marshal, waved from the back of a catering vehicle, and Suffolk Councilman Roger Fawcett did the same from another vehicle. A 12-foot inflatable cow loomed large while participants in holiday-themed Chick-fil-A cow costumes passed by on floats, jet skis and a boat.

There was Elsa, Anna and Olaf from Disney’s “Frozen,” Minions from “Despicable Me” and a menagerie of Dr. Seuss characters, including a mean one named Mr. Grinch. There were dogs from Portsmouth Humane Society, Ducks Unlimited and the Chesapeake Police K-9 Unit.

State Farm Insurance Agent Lindsey Patto’s unit won Best Float for its well-decorated gingerbread house hitched to a truck. The Western Branch High School Marching Bruins won Best Band, while the Best Non-Marching Band Unit this year was Berkley Cougar Marching Juke Box, wearing sharp green and black outfits.

Best Animal Unit went to the Stephanie Noble group and its horse. Greer Off Road Racing Team pulled off wheelies with their dirt bikes and won Best Motorized Unit. The ladies of Red Hat Society High Steppers in Chesapeake were this year’s Best Specialty Unit.

The theme for this year’s parade was “new beginnings” in light of the remodeling that’s taking place at the Chick-fil-A beside the mall. According to Hess, the restaurant will close mid-January for the renovations and is expected to re-open at the same location in May.

After roughly three decades serving customers at Chesapeake Square — first in the mall and then at his current location — Hess said it’s good to give back to this community with a show, just in time for the holidays.

“It was our biggest year yet, and we’re just going to keep getting bigger and bigger,” he said.