The night was clear and the stars shone Friday for the 10th annual Johnstown Holiday Parade.
One star was especially bright — Zach Ropeter. He literally played a star, the star of Bethlehem, in the parade.
He was part of a living Nativity scene performed by Grace Lutheran Church of Johnstown. The church was making its first appearance in the parade and was one of more than 60 participants.
Ropeter, 12, carried the star over a manger containing a baby Jesus figure, which was pulled along in a wagon. More than a dozen other congregants portrayed the Three Wise Men, animals, angels and shepherds. Alison Martin played the part of Mary.
A lifelong member of the Lutheran church, Ropeter was proud and pleased to play a symbol of Christ’s birth. “I am the star of the show,” he said.
For members of the church, the parade was a chance to shine as well. They used the parade as an opportunity to let people know they are welcome to join their church, Ropeter said. “We want to get the word out that we are open so we can get more people to come,” he said.
Grace Lutheran Church was created last year through the merger of Christ Lutheran Church in Johnstown with St. James Lutheran Church in Gloversville. It has about 80 active participants.
Some 24 Scouts of Cub Scout Pack 69 of Johnstown also used the parade as an opportunity to gain “Good Turn America” merit badges. The Scouts rode on a parade float that featured an outdoor camping scene, complete with “Charlie Brown” characters, including Woodstock and Snoopy. The parade’s theme this year was “Charlie Brown and Friends” and “Winter Wonderland.”
Cub Scout Logan Nellis, 8, was excited about the parade. “Today is a great day. I get to spend it with my friends and do some community service,” he said from atop the float. He was wearing his Cub Scout uniform and an “Angry Birds” hat.
This was his second year as a parade participant and he thoroughly enjoys the experience. “I see parades on TV and they are awesome,” he said. He planned to “sit here and wave” as the float moved slowly through downtown Johnstown.
There were plenty of people to see him wave. The crowd estimate topped more than 1,000, a great many of them children. People lined both sides of the street along the 11⁄2-mile parade route.
Jennifer Allen of Gloversville was there with her two children, ages 1 and 11. “I have been coming here for at least five years,” she said. “I am here for my kids.” She said the parade is an opportunity to enjoy a festive, free activity as a family.
Down the street from Allen was Michael Cioffi of Johnstown and his three children, Matthew, 3, Michael, 4 and Makayla, 6. Last year, he participated in the parade with the Berkshire Fire Department. This year he wanted to see the parade with his children. “We have been coming every year since Makayla was born,” he said.
The children were excited to be at the parade. Makayla jumped up and down frequently, yelling out “Candy!” “Firetrucks!” “Why is it going so slow?” Her siblings followed suit. The parade started 30 minutes past its traditional start time of 7 p.m.
When the parade passed by and Santa’s elves threw out candy, she ran out to grab handfuls of sweets. The parade is known for distributing some 5,000 bags of candy each year to children. Adults received literature of religious nature.
The parade proved to be godsend for several downtown businesses, especially merchants who sold food. The Vintage Cafe was packed in the hour before the parade, as was Vince’s Pizza.
Vintage Cafe owner Linda Joseph said she put on two extra workers and stayed open beyond her usual closing time of 2 p.m. for the parade. “We are not usually open at night. We open for events,” she said. “This event is good for business.”
The parade is privately sponsored and supported by donations. Karen Coppola has put on the event with the help of several other volunteers for the last decade as a community service. The Gazette is a corporate sponsor.