ENGLEWOOD — Clowns Like Us won first place at the Rotonda Christmas Parade Saturday but the community turned out to be the biggest winners, donating 1,940 pounds of food, toys and $600 in cash to benefit Englewood Helping Hand.
Parade participants and spectators who lined the parade route were asked to bring donations of food, toys, cash and used eyeglasses.
“We are truly blessed,” said Ginny Anderson, president of Englewood Helping Hand. “I wanted to send a big thank you to the churches and the Rotonda West Association.”
Since Englewood Helping Hand is not participating in this year’s Toys for Tots drive, toys donated by spectators and participants in the Christmas Parade went to Suncoast Worship Center.
Second place winner in the parade was Girl Scout Daisy Troop 304 escorted by Thoroughbred Golf Carts. Third place went to the Rotonda West Buckeye Club.
“Our idea for the float was called Frosty, the Snowman,” said Barbara Waters-Riddle, founder of Clowns Like Us. “We had two huge frosty snowmen we’d built out of cardboard with red and green tissue paper.”
Waters-Riddle performs under the name Nuzzles the Clown.
“We played a lot of the Christmas jazzy music on the float,” Waters-Riddle said. “Everyone came out in their clown outfits and we try to stay within the season.”
Judges in the parade came from outside of Rotonda, said parade chairman Earl Haas. The theme of the parade was Santa.
The judges were Mike Billington, retired publisher of the Englewood Sun; Mary Smith, executive director of the Englewood-Cape Haze Chamber of Commerce; and Tammy Birdsong of Re/Max Realty.
“It was so much fun,” Smith said. “We had mimosas.”
Smith also judged the Pioneer Days Parade this year. Many of the floats in the Christmas parade were also used for Pioneer Days.
“There is such a strong sense of community at both parades,” Smith said.
What stood out particularly for Smith was when Jon Cole of Giffels-Webster drove in the parade with a flatbed truck and people loaded the truck with bags of food.
Anderson thanked the 12 area churches that built a float and helped support Helping hand — Christ Lutheran, Community Presbyterian, Englewood Church of the Nazerene, Englewood United Methodist Church, Fellowship Church, Redeemer Lutheran Church, Rotonda West Community Church, St. David Episcopal Church, St. Raphael Catholic Church, Gulf Cove United Methodist Church, Northside Christian Church, and Sunnybrook Alliance.