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MUSCATINE — The sign at the First National Bank claimed it was 28 degrees, but it sure seemed colder than that.

But the cold weather at the 34th annual Muscatine Holiday Stroll was nicely balanced by the spirit, hot chocolate and many families that came downtown Friday to enjoy the festivities.

They attended for many reasons.

Travis Theobald and his wife, Diana, and three sons took a few pictures under the lighted 20-foot tree outside the bank.

As the multitude of lights blinked their bright blue, red and green, Travis admitted they were there for more than just the kids’ sake.

“Partially, it’s the kids,” he said. “And I think it’s nostalgia for me because I remember when I was a kid and just participating in some of the displays and stuff.”

His son, Hyde, 9, was glad his dad saw value in the Holiday Stroll.

“I think it’s really fun because one, we get a whole bunch of sugar,” Hyde said with an earnest grin. “And two, the Christmas tree looks great. Every year we come down here to see it.”

Hyde, there with little brothers, Hendrix and Hudson, said he also was there to check out the art work the art club at his school, Madison Elementary, contributed. “They usually make something every single year,” he said.

The crowd "ooed" as Mayor Diana Broderson lit the tree about 5:30 p.m., and instantly the Holiday Stroll came to life. About 2,000 people walked the streets in search of hot chocolate, cookies, bargains and yes, Santa.

En route to the Merrill Hotel they would come across plenty of entertainment, including the Louise School of Dance, which performed inside at Sherman-Williams Paints.

Further up 2nd Street at the Carver Charitable Trust building, the Central Middle School Rock Orchestra performed “Jingle Bells,” along with several other songs in their repertoire. They drew a sizable crowd peering at them through the windows.

“I think it’s nice; they are doing a really good job,” said Carla Steckman, whose son was among a large group of students performing. “They work really hard for this.”

She was pleased that students were performing at the event, sponsored by the Muscatine Journal and Toyota of Muscatine, among others.

Down the way at the Merrill Hotel, Santa and Mrs. Claus drew quite a crowd. Parents could not have minded the wait; afterall, they were warm inside the lobby of the stately hotel.

Tricia and Chad Job of Muscatine, were there with their son, Lucas, and daughter, Raeann.

Lucas knew what he was going to ask for. His list wasn’t long. But only time will tell if it’s effective. He was going to tell Santa he wanted a Sea Patroller and an Air Patroller.

Meanwhile back up the street on 2nd, another Santa spent time posing for pictures and telling kids why Rudolph wasn’t with him on his motorcycle.

Matt Peine rode his Kawasaki Vulcan that had many a light on its front. “You want them to see you coming,” he explained.

He indicated he had an enjoyable trip to Muscatine.

“I took the scenic route in, came past the Rocky Mountains, took a little trip down across the plains and stretched the wheels out a little bit and had a good time,” Santa Peine said.

As for where Rudolph was, Peine proved to a group of eager listeners, that this Santa has the answers right now.

“I want to make sure he is home getting his rest,” Peine said. “We’ve got a big run coming here in a couple of weeks. I want to make sure all them reindeer are up there resting well.”

Yes, it was clear, the Santa on the motorcycle, was having a good time. The Pearl City Life Riders motorcycle club hosted a coat drive while also handing out hot chocolate, the drink of choice on this night, and cookies.

Santa was happy to pose for many a picture. But he was also happy to be there  to support the Iowa Donor Network as well as collect coats  to support Jessica Faye’s Closet.

The charity is named after Peine’s daughter who was struck and killed by an automobile about 20 years ago while walking home from school in December.

But on this night it was as though the good-natured Peine took the Mayor Diana Broderson’s brief talk at the tree lighting ceremony to heart. Remember the spirit of the season, she told the Muscatine citizenry.

“This is our first year down here,” Peine said with a hearty smile beneath his imported white beard. “But I am sure it’s the first of many more.”

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