Yes, South Miami, there is a Santa Claus and he made his annual appearance at the 28th annual Santa’s Parade of Elves.
Thanks to his number one elf, community resident and volunteer Barbara Acker, parade onlookers enjoyed cheery elves, festive floats, marching bands and talented dancers as they marched down Sunset Drive on Sunday, December 5th.
Thanks to Acker’s spirit and determination, the parade that almost didn’t happen, did, and in a big way. “This parade was bigger and better than ever,” said Acker. “After last year’s parade was such a success, I thought ‘how am I going to top that?’”
To top last year’s event, Acker had a little help from more than 3,000 participants and many volunteer elves.
“John Shupenko helps me stage all of the groups and participants, which is a really big job,” said Acker. “He gives up his Dolphin tickets to help with this parade and says he wouldn’t miss it.”
Acker’s son, Scott, and several friends also help her with behind the scenes traffic flow and she said she couldn’t do it without them.
“Thanks to all of the participants and the volunteers for making this parade a cherished event,” said Acker.
Ron Magill, Zoo Miami’s communications director, was the Grand Marshall. The parade featured five local marching bands and 12 festive floats, including floats from First National Bank of South Miami and South Miami Hospital.
The University of Miami marching band joined the parade for the very first time. “I was so thrilled to have them,” said Acker. “They were a big hit and a crowd favorite.”
Dancers from Jill Mallory Studio were dancin’ in the street and at the performance following the parade at the end of Sunset Drive, which also featured performances by the School of Rock, Hero Martial Arts and little belly dancers.
The Honor Guard from the South Miami Police and Miami- Dade Police departments marched and the first fire truck from Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue ended the parade. There were stunning cars, motorcycles, horses and beauty queens. A cast of characters such as Ronald McDonald and Billy the Marlin, along with Santa, Rudolph, the Grinch and tin soldiers spread holiday cheer.
Acker’s fondest memory of this year’s parade is the smile that beamed from one little elf’s face. Jose is a 2.5 year-old boy with cancer who’s been going through chemotherapy since June. Jose’s family asked if he could ride on a float, so Acker arranged for him to ride on the float sponsored by Playkids.
“Jose was dressed as an elf and was all smiles,” said Acker. “His aunt called me days after the parade to tell me that he puts on his elf costume and watches the video of himself in the parade over and over. This just made my day…This is what it’s all about.”