WATERVILLE — Downtown Waterville came alive Friday night with holiday spirit and family cheer as the annual Parade of Lights made its way along Main Street to Kringleville, Santa’s central Maine mini-village in Castonguay Square.

Families of children young and old lined both sides of the street — 10 people deep in most places, eyes wide at the lights and music.

“They’re coming! They’re coming!” one little boy clad in a New England Patriots cap and winter coat exclaimed from atop his father’s shoulder as the first lights of the night approached.

There were cars and trucks and vans and a parade of Jeeps, which a couple of the children in the crowd seemed to like.

Alayna McMahon, 10, visiting Waterville from Greenville with her parents, Kelly and Michelle, said the spectacle really got her into the Christmas spirit.

“What I like about the Waterville parade is how people come out and show their experience of how people love Christmas,” she said. “They show people that Christmas is a special time of year. I like the Jeeps. They’re really neat.”

Her friend Matthew, 9, at the parade with parents Kirby and Sherri Reardon, of Sidney, agreed. He liked the Jeeps, too.

“I like the part of the vehicles coming in and out with lights on them and the music,” he said.

The Santa Claus residence returned to the square earlier this week after a three-year hiatus, during which time the Jolly Old Elf visited children inside The Center on Main Street. A gingerbread house — large enough for children to visit — also is featured in the square.

The events were organized for the first time this year by the Children’s Discovery Museum instead of Waterville Main Street. Tracy O’Clair, who was hired last year to organize the parade and Kringleville, was asked this year to help with the transition. Christmas lights on a giant spruce tree donated by Joe Lemieux, of Fairfield, also were turned on.

Kirby Reardon, a teacher at the downtown Skowhegan campus of the Cornville Regional Charter School, said he remembers coming to downtown Waterville when he was little from Dexter, where he grew up, visiting Levine’s clothing store and the Hathaway Shirt Co. He said the revitalization of downtown Waterville since a slow decline in the 1990s is encouraging.

“We’ve been coming every year for the last five years and it’s wonderful,” he said. “It’s a great kickoff for the holiday season. It’s just a fun atmosphere.”

His wife, Sherri, added that the exhilaration of a Christmas parade is for the whole family.

“Kids love coming to the after-Thanksgiving festival — free candy, Santa, lights, parade, people,” she said.

Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus rode atop one of 25 floats in the parade, waving to the people lining the parade route. The grand marshal was Paul Ureneck, director of commercial real estate for Elm City LLC, an affiliate of Colby College.

Parade participants Friday night included police and fire department floats, Scouts, Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter, Skills Inc., Messalonskee Trail Riders, area churches, dancers

After the parade, children were invited to line up to visit Santa in his house, and Girl Scouts sold hot chocolate in the square. The Children’s Book Cellar at 52 Main St. will host book readings at the store while Kringleville is open, and the Children’s Discovery Museum will have an activity center in the annex of Common Street Arts inside The Center.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

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Twitter:@Doug_Harlow