TAMPA — On days like Saturday, Santa Claus wishes his holiday outfit came with shorts.
The temperature was just shy of 80 degrees when the annual Christmas holiday parade kicked off at Morgan and Madison streets downtown at 11 a.m.
Thongs of children and adults appropriately wore shorts and short-sleeve tops and T-shirts to the event. They screamed and yelled for candy and beads, reminiscent of the Gasparilla parade, as a caravan of floats, marching bands and dance troops traveled west on Madison, then north on Ashley Drive to Zack Street.
“I’m hot,” said Jim Williams of Carrollwood, who portrayed Santa Claus at the 31st Annual Santa Fest and the Rough Riders Holiday Parade.
Williams, aka Santa Claus, was the featured attraction at the 50-minute parade and the four-hour festival that followed at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. He was ready to meet children and hear about items on their Christmas wish lists.
It just happened to be one of the warmest days in December.
Saturday’s high in Tampa was 83 degrees, a few degrees shy of the city’s record high for Dec. 7, which was 86 degrees in 1978, said meteorologist John McMichael at the National Weather Service in Ruskin.
Unlike places such as Texas and the Midwest, where temperatures are more seasonal, West Central Florida is basking in temperatures about 10 degrees above normal for this time of year, McMichael said.
But the weather wasn’t an issue for the children. They wanted to see and meet St. Nick.
“I got to see Santa and get a lot of necklaces,” said Kevin Medina, 11, of Riverview.
The bounty wasn’t bad for his first time at the parade, said Kevin, who was there with his mother, Lizmarie Medina, 2-year-old sister, Fabiola, and his grandmother, aunt, uncle and cousins, all of Riverview.
Tysnie Williams of Temple Terrace and Kelly McBreen of South Tampa were strangers before the parade. Both women, young mothers each with two small children, collected beads for their little ones. McBreen offered Williams the candy she collected.
It was the third year Dan and Kelly McBreen had attended the parade. It was a special holiday outing for the couple and their two children: son Kyler, 3, and daughter Leighton, nine months old.
Williams, who works downtown, was there with her daughter Jiyan, 2, and son Aydan, 1. Williams said Jiyan wanted to see Santa and tell him about her wish for a Stuffie, an animal pillow, for Christmas.
It’s the beginning of a family tradition, Williams said.