Seven-year-old Sam Christie took a few quick steps onto the snow-packed roadway of Third Avenue North and peeked to the east.
“I think I see a float coming,” he shouted back to his 10-year-old brother Jack and parents, Bob and Leigh, who were standing on the sidewalk behind him.
The Christies were just four of thousands who lined downtown Billings streets for the 26th Annual Holiday Parade to see at least 105 holiday-themed floats wind their way for nearly a mile through the downtown.
This year's theme, The Electric Light Parade, encouraged groups to decorate their floats with as many lights as they could. The results made it tough to miss much of the spectacle, and floats lit up the streets as they paraded by.
“Since we've been upping our ante each year, we've been wanting everybody to step up to the plate,” said Mikal Young, marketing and events coordinator with the Downtown Billings Association, which helped host the event.
Floats representing local businesses, youth groups, churches and area law enforcement and emergency responders were on hand.
One even featured people dancing to thumping techno music while wearing tinsel wigs and shiny silver and white suits.
“They're all so excited,” said Cindy Moats, director of Discovery Daycare and Preschool, which loaded 70 bundled-up youngsters onto a flatbed. “It's just the excitement about being in the parade.”
Nearby, members of Cub Scout Pack 32 sat waiting for their float to leave. William Cermak, 9, was the savvy veteran of the dozens of kids on the float.
“I think it might be kind of cool this year,” he said. “I did it last year, too, so I already know what it's like to be in the parade.”
At the end of the parade, members of the Treasure State ATV Association preceded the final float — Santa Claus — by handing out nearly 1,000 teddy bears, provided by Albertson's and Walmart, to kids.
While the gifts were great, for many of the thousands on hand, it is more about the tradition and being with family.
“It's the fun that we see on their faces,” said Bob Christie as he pointed at his two sons. “It's an awesome time and way to get the family together.