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Parade draws thousands Downtown to see Santa, marchers

Tribune-Review
| Saturday, November 29, 2014 1:54 p.m.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Making their way along Fifth Avenue, Downtown, the Girl Scouts of Western Pennsylvania were dressed as cookies during the WPXI Holiday Parade, Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
The Pajanimals were one of the inflatables during the WPXI Holiday Parade along Fifth Avenue, Downtown, Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was one of the inflatables during the WPXI Holiday Parade along Fifth Avenue, Downtown, Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Moving along Fifth Avenue, Downtown, the Strawberry Shortcake inflatable entertained all ages in the crowd during the WPXI Holiday Parade, Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Making their way along Fifth Avenue, Downtown, the Pittsburgh Obama Academy Marching Band entertained the crowd during the WPXI Holiday Parade, Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Natalie Pickens, of Hopewell, keeps bundled up as she celebrates her fourth birthday watching the WPXI Holiday Parade along Fifth Avenue, Downtown, Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Making it's way along Fifth Avenue, Downtown, the Caillou inflatable was the first of seven inflatables in the WPXI Holiday Parade, Downtown, Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
The South Allegheny High School Marching Band travels along Fifth Avenue during the WPXI Holiday Parade, Downtown, Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Luca Orsi, 4, of Ross, smiles and laughs as he watches the WPXI Holiday Parade along Fifth Avenue, Downtown, Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
The Eat'n'Park Smiley Cookie shakes hands with children during the WPXI Holiday Parade along Fifth Avenue, Downtown, Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Making their way along Fifth Avenue, Downtown, the Freeport High School Marching Band entertained the crowd during the WPXI Holiday Parade, Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Gage McArdle, 18 months, of Murrysville, is filled with wonder as he watches the WPXI Holiday Parade along Fifth Avenue, Downtown, Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
The Steel City Angels entertain the crowd along Fifth Avenue during the WPXI Holiday Parade, Downtown, Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Along Fifth Avenue, Downtown, Wess Apshaga-Meaux, and Burning Dawn, play with fire to entertain the crowd during the WPXI Holiday Parade, Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Racing along Fifth Avenue, Downtown, the Pierogies entertained the crowd during the WPXI Holiday Parade, Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
James Yeoman, 7, of Point Breeze, and Mara Myers, 3, of McKees Rocks, wave to the performers during the WPXI Holiday Parade along Fifth Avenue, Downtown, Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014.

Hill District resident Jamar Robinson, his family and thousands of other people bundled up Saturday to watch the 34th annual WPXI Holiday Parade proceed through Downtown.

As the lead parade sponsor for the first time, Pittsburgh Public Schools had a strong presence, with marching bands and participation by staff and students.

The sponsorship is part of a $206,000 marketing campaign with WPXI-TV aimed at adding pride in the school district and showcasing its positive news. The sponsorship is being paid for through a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, district officials said.

It is money well spent, said Robinson, 37, who graduated from Westinghouse High School in Homewood in 1994.

“Because we get so much bad press. But I’m all in. Whatever we got to do (I’m in a favor of),” said Robinson, whose son is a sixth-grader at Obama Academy in East Liberty.

The parade started at 21st and Liberty Avenue at 9 a.m. and was broadcast on WPXI-TV.

Crowds packed sidewalks Downtown, especially on Fifth Avenue.

Robinson residents Tony and Emily Marino and their three daughters, 3, 6 and 8, have attended the holiday parade for the past several years, Emily Marino said while with her family on Grant Street.

“It’s a community feel,” she said.

Superintendent Linda Lane and some school board members, students and families rode aboard a special float. District students and staffers handled huge parade balloons featuring Hello Kitty and other characters.

Students from the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School performed.

Marching units included schools in Pittsburgh and from other districts in the region, including Mohawk Area in Lawrence County; Freeport Area in Butler and Armstrong counties and Jamestown Area in Mercer and Crawford counties. About 70 units performed.

As part of its marketing campaign, Pittsburgh Public Schools is spending $52,500 per year to sponsor the annual parade through 2016. WPXI will produce a 30-minute special featuring positive stories about the school district, four 30-second vignettes about improving teaching and learning environments and a digital/mobile campaign about teaching and learning.

North Side resident Dimero Dixon, 30, who attended the parade with his family, is a 2003 graduate of Pittsburgh Public’s former Oliver High School in the North Side.

The school district has some pressing issues, such as teacher layoffs and graduates who are sometimes ill-prepared for college. Boosting district morale is not going to lead to greater success, Dixon said.

“I feel the money could have been spent better elsewhere,” he said.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or tparrish@tribweb.com.

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