This may be the season of good cheer, but some plainly weren't feeling it toward Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon on Sunday as she rode in the traditional Mayor's Christmas Parade.
Thousands of Baltimore residents lined Falls Road and 36th Street, and hundreds of them loudly showed Dixon exactly how they felt about last week's jury verdict finding her guilty of spending $530 worth of gift cards meant for the poor on herself.
Some greeted her warmly, in a spirit of forgiveness, though many were a little Grinchier - a few perhaps emboldened by beer and the safety of numbers.
Still, Dixon gamely rang her little bell for 2.5 miles through Medfield and Hampden, smiling and waving from the back seat of a 1972 cherry-red Corvette convertible as if she weren't being booed at all.
"You can't stop people from [feeling] what they feel," she conceded later.
Erica Skoczylas handed the mayor a grape Jell-O shot, saying afterward, "I should have given her two; I think she needs a double." But Shannon Atkinson called her "a thief," and urged Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who was riding behind Dixon, to take over.
As president of the City Council, Rawlings-Blake will take the top spot should Dixon resign - something Geno Carapico, a 62-year-old home remodeler, can't stomach.
"Hampden still loves you, Mayor!" he hollered as she rode by on 36th. "That woman has done a tremendous job" cutting crime and cleaning streets, he said, while Dixon insults rang out around him on the street known as The Avenue.
"You suck!" screamed one young man. "Have some shame, resign!" shouted another. A woman across the street muttered to a friend: "Did the gift cards buy that car?"
"Baltimore shouldn't accept a convicted criminal as the mayor, it's outrageous," said Kandra Bellanca, 29. She was waving a homemade sign that read: "No pension for Dixon, she's taken enough already." Bellanca's husband, a fellow artist, held a Sheila-as-Grinch caricature that Bellanca had drawn.
"We just think that people need to be more vocal" about calling for her resignation, Bellanca said. "Obviously, a conviction wasn't enough."
Dixon hasn't actually been "convicted" under the current interpretation of Maryland's Constitution, however. That would come after sentencing, at which time, the law also says she must step down, unless her lawyers find a good reason to prevent it - which some are counting on.
"I thought she got a raw deal, a very raw deal," said Sharon Shipley, 61, of Forest Park.
Shipley had never been to the Mayor's Christmas Parade, which is in its 38th year, and only came this year to support Dixon. She set up camp with her three grandchildren at the parade's beginning, at the corner of Falls Road and Cold Spring Lane, rushing the mayor as she drove by.
"Can I shake your hand?" she called out, beaming after she did. Several blocks south on Falls Road, Parris Allison, a 10-year-old fifth-grader at Medfield Heights Elementary School, held a sign decorated with hearts that said "We love you Mayor Sheila Dixon."
But many others just heckled her. "Where are my gift cards?" Anita Spagnolo wanted to know, while David Nohe just booed. Repeatedly.
At the end of the route, on the corner of Chestnut Avenue and 37th Street, Dixon stretched her legs and thanked her staff and friends for coming out. The parade has been a tradition for her for a quarter-century or so, first as a spectator and now as the host of honor. But she recognized that her reception this year was a little off.
"There were mixed feelings," she said in a brief interview. "And that's understandable."