STAMFORD, Conn. — The giant balloons looked like they were hunting for loose change on Atlantic Street, but spirits were high and performers were game at the blustery Stamford Downtown Parade Spectacular on Sunday.
With winds gusting to more than 30 miles per hour, parade organizers delayed the big show for a half-hour, allowing an impromptu dance party in the street in front of the reviewing stand.
By 12:30 p.m., the Downtown Special Services District and Stamford Police decided to let some of the balloons crawl down the mile-long route to the delight of the estimated 200,000 in attendance.
Fourteen-time MC Alan Kalter strayed from his script more than once to account for the airborne absentees.
“Paddington Bear didn’t make it,” he said as the children’s favorite proved a no-show. “He’s hibernating.”
Parade aficionados said they didn’t mind as there were plenty of rousing bands and marching units to applaud.
“We’ve been planning this for weeks,” said Rich Askintowicz, who brought his young daughter Keira. “It’s great — balloons or no balloons.”
Police motorcycles from Connecticut, New York and New Jersey — their lights flashing and sirens blaring — kicked off the order of the march, followed closely by the Fairfield County Police Pipes & Drums, playing their rendition of “The Marines’ Hymn.”
A dozen bands performed along the parade route, belting out everything from Stephen Foster’s Americana classic “Hard Times” to Cameo’s funk-filled “Word Up.”
Dancers from the Locust Performing Arts Center, Samba New York!, Center Stage Dance Studio and City Center Dance kept families’ toes tapping in the frigid stands.
Comic daredevil Bello Nock scaled a stories-tall street lamp prop, swaying precariously at the top before shimmying down head first.
Of the five new balloons set to debut this year, Peppa Pig and Pirate Pete couldn’t make it, but Captain Barnacles, Alphonso the Dragon and Ozzy the Octopus were welcomed with cheers.
A floating birthday cake made it to the reviewing stand just in time: A gust of wind tore a hole in its side and it began deflating as its volunteer wranglers worked to get it across the finish line.
Mayor David Martin joined Kalter at the mic for a time, thanking fans for braving the cold for another successful parade.
“You’ve been knocking it out of the park!” he said as Santa himself brought up the rear.
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