Hundreds gathered in downtown Baton Rouge Saturday night, braving the wet and windy weather for the Cortana Kiwanis Christmas Parade, which was back after a pandemic hiatus.

After taking off last holiday season due to COVID-19, the parade — a local tradition since 1948 — returned this weekend with giant neon floats, live music from local high school bands and thousands of beads strewn around the necks of onlookers.

Dozens of kids watched the procession snake down River Road, their arms stretched wide to receive candy and any other treats thrown down from people on the floats above.

Some residents took notice of just how different the parade looked from years past.

"It's way more family-oriented," Baton Rouge resident Aisha Robbins said. "This is great, especially for the kids because they miss out on a lot."

Others experiencing the parade for the first time were impressed with the scope of the event despite the difficult weather.

"It's been wonderful and amazing," Baton rouge resident Hope Esoese said. "We didn't expect it was going to be as big as this just by the weather and the way people talk, we didn't think a lot of people were going to show up."

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Esoese, who is originally from Nigeria and moved to Baton Rouge in 2019, said he was excited to see the community out and about as he hasn't gotten to experience many city events due to COVID-19.

"It's a welcome development because I can see the joy and everybody's happy," Esoese said. "The spirit of Christmas is about togetherness, bringing everybody together and everybody doing their part to spread joy."

Willie Young, another Baton Rouge resident, said the parade felt like more of a treat than previous years because the city missed out on the procession in 2020.

"It's bigger and better because it's been so long since we had one, it's been so long and so it's a nice turnout," Young said.

The parade was also canceled in 2018 due to weather, meaning that the Christmas parade has only been held every other year since 2017.

With a Christmas procession that many residents said made them nostalgic for community events and parades of the past, Baton rouge residents were finally able to get out and enjoy each other's company — even if the rain tried to dampen the fun.

"Everybody is out in one place and getting along fine," Young said. "Everybody looks like they're having fun, that's what this is all about."

Email Terell Wilkins at twilkins@theadvocate.com or follow him on Twitter, @terelljwilkins.