For Jason Dugger, the Mayor's Christmas Parade in Hampden perfectly epitomized Baltimore.
"It's very traditional, but slightly askew," said the 41-year-old, visiting from New York.
The 42nd annual event on Sunday showcased an eclectic collection of marching bands, dancers, floats, giant balloons, "hons," Star Wars characters and all manner of other performers.
Among them were Quintina Water and Denise Cameron, two of the parade's longest-running participants. The Baltimore Westsiders drum majors said they've taken part since 1986 and 1974, respectively.
"It gives the children inspiration," said Cameron. "We're building families outside of families."
The Westsiders — which includes "The Divas," a group of children as young as 3 — rehearse year round, twice a week, they said.
"We've got to invest in our youth," Water said.
Lynn Brinkman, 55, danced in a Christmas tree knit hat on the sidewalk as the Dunbar High School marching band passed, playing "Jingle Bells."
"I love the high school marching bands," she said. "They bring so much life to this city."
The parade has become a neighborhood tradition, said Brinkman, who has attended for more than a decade.
"It's Baltimore, hon!" she said. "It's community, hometown living, city life at its best."
Gwen Cooper, 62, sat in a lawn chair watching the bands and floats move down Falls Road with her granddaughter, Monica, and her 1-year-old great-granddaughter, Khiyah.
"This parade is so beautiful," Cooper said. "It puts you in the Christmas spirit."
At the corner of the Avenue and Chestnut Avenue, steam rose from a pot of hot chocolate on a table in front of The Charmery.
Laura Alima, 35, owns the ice cream shop with her husband, David, He was marching in the parade as one of the "Boys of Hampden," a group of businessmen who posed scantily clad for a calendar for charity.
Alima and employee Margaret Hurley said the store had sold gallons' worth of $3 hot chocolates ($4 with Tahitian vanilla marshmallows).
Nikki Bass, 33, of Towson, wore a wreath skirt adorned with crabs and an Old Bay label, candy cane leggings and Ugg boots decorated as gingerbread houses.
The 2015 HonFest winner's outfit, she said, was an ode to David DeBoy's song, "Crabs for Christmas."
"I liked seeing Hampden outside of the Avenue," she added. "We always go there to shop, but it was nice seeing people out on their stoops."
Missing, for the second year, was the mayor herself. Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was returning from the Paris climate talks late Sunday afternoon. A spokesman said she was "disappointed" she wasn't able to attend the parade or Sunday night's Menorah lighting in the Inner Harbor.
"She hopes both events were enjoyed by many people, and she looks forward to participating in a number of holiday events in the coming weeks," spokesman Howard Libit said.
An earlier version misstated the name of Chestnut Avenue. The Sun regrets the error.