Toyland Park Year For Dogs Huge Success Once Again
In its ninth year, the Toyland Parade staging area in Yorktown had drawn a crowd hours before the marching was scheduled to start on Saturday.
Santa and Mrs. Claus stood by the white engine car of the Polar Express, a four-car child-sized train that would chug along at the end of the parade. People and dogs alike were covered in red and green, sparkles and bells, ready for the parade to begin at 1:30 p.m.
William McKellar, 8, and his 6-year-old brother Gabriel arrived at Riverwalk Landing just in time with their mom, Rachel McKellar. Bundled up against the forty-degree forecast, both boys had headbands adorned with antlers and bells layered over their winter hats.
Gabriel seemed to enjoy the metallic jingle that rang out when he would shake his head side-to-side or up-and-down. William said he was mostly excited to be in the parade. The boys were prepared with scooters decorated with sparkly red ribbon wound around the handlebars.
“Mom helped us,” William said of the decorations. Passing dogs, each one dressed up in its holiday best, distracted both boys as they waited for 1:30 p.m. to roll around.
“It’s a dog parade,” he exclaimed.
William McKellar was right.
There were more than 35 dogs trotting behind Santa and Mrs. Claus, and the Fifes and Drum of York Town as they marched around Riverwalk Landing.
The majority of the four-legged participants were golden retrievers from the Southeastern Virginia Golden Retriever Rescue, Education and Training, or SEVA GRREAT. With most of the dogs in some stage of the adoption or rehabilitation process, both owners and foster owners paraded them around the event.
Dan Walker brought his newest foster, 2-year-old Reese. Reese was a stray and a bit too nervous about the loud drums to walk in the parade, but he sat on the sidelines with his red-and-green fabric Santa collar rippling in the wind.
“We want people to see the dogs and as they begin to become available, we want to find them good homes,” Walker said.
Walker, from Williamsburg, has been attending the parade with GRREAT for three or four years, he said.
“My favorite thing is seeing all the dogs, and letting them see the other dogs,” Walker said. “More and more are getting dressed up each year.”
Kevin Ritchie, the event planner for York County Parks and Recreation, said attendance has grown steadily over the nine years they’ve hosted the Toyland Parade. He said they try to change certain aspects to keep it entertaining. This year, they added the choir form Center Street Academy.
“It’s a little community, home town type of thing,” Ritchie said. “People dress up, they dress their dogs, their strollers up. … It’s a lot of fun for us to put on.”
The parade, co-sponsored by the county, Riverwalk Landing Business Association, and the Waterman’s Museum, is an added bonus for those attending Market Days, Ritchie said.
The dogs wearing red-and-green sweaters or tulle tutus or just a collar of bells is a favorite for some of the vendors at Market Days, which had extended hours Saturday.
Creators by the Shore is a mother-daughter art team that creates wreaths and wall décor out of local drift wood. Kim Roberts and her daughter Jennifer Bayes attend all of the holiday markets around Yorktown, which is especially important because they work out of their home, Roberts said.
Roberts said she loves “seeing all the same faces every year, the people who come to see us — and the dogs, they’re so dressed up.”