Cyclists spread holiday cheer, awareness during Macon Christmas parade

Ray Egan wrapped silver tinsel around the forks and tubes of his bicycle. Before he was done, the sound of Christmas music rang from a speaker mounted on his handlebars.

Joe Tirello arrived with his bike already outfitted with battery-powered Christmas lights. While Egan, president of the Ocmulgee Mountain Biking Association, wore a Christmas T-shirt, Tirello came wearing Santa-style boxer shorts over his black leggings -- faux fur included.

“It’s a change to dress up a little ridiculous,” Tirello said.

Michael Nolen, of Warner Robins, “commandeered” his wife’s reindeer Christmas sweater and used metal ornament hooks to affix gold balls to his chest. He wrapped his bike in glitter ribbon and leftover blue snowflake tinsel.

“We’ve got red glitter everywhere,” he said.

About two dozen bicycle riders picked up donated gifts at area businesses and delivered them to the local Ronald McDonald House on Sunday as part of their participation in the Middle Georgia Christmas Parade.

Santa Bikes Macon was organized by College Hill Alliance in hopes of encouraging people to use bicycles more often as a main source of transportation.

“What we want to show people is you don’t have to wear spandex and own a really expensive bike to ride,” said J.R. Olive, the alliance’s programming coordinator.

Egan, Tirello and Nolen each said participating in the parade and delivering gifts is a good way to “give back” and support the Ronald McDonald House.

Some of Sunday’s riders had tall Christmas trees affixed to the back of their bikes. The trees, made of green bubble wrap and topped with pinwheels, were attention grabbers as the riders circled back and forth as they made their way down the parade route.

Crowds lined some sections of downtown streets nearly elbow-to-elbow 30 minutes before the parade was set to start.

Kimberly Bradley staked out a prime spot at the front with her 5-year-old grandson Jonathan McMullen.

“When I was small, I remember coming to the parade every year,” said Bradley, who lives in Macon.

She said she has fond memories of being with family, watching the marching bands and seeing Santa.

Sunday was her grandson’s first trip to the annual festivities.

He said he was looking forward to eating cotton candy and seeing Santa.

Vendors selling toys, balloons and snacks hawked their wares up and down the parade route.

Kacie Cape sat on the curb in front of Market City Cafe with her sons, 2-year-old Kolby and 5-year-old Kaleb.

Although her family typically attends the parade each year, she discovered it by accident Sunday on the way to the hospital to visit a friend.

While downtown, Cape spotted the marching bands warming up.

“Oh God, the parade is here,” she said she thought.

Kolby jumped with excitement, squealing and laughing as motorcycles driven by Bibb County deputies zipped past him signaling the start of the parade.

Although he’s attended the parade in the past, his mother said Sunday’s will be the first he’ll be able to remember.

To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.