xmas-on-15-avenue_web.jpgFlorida International University

Drenching rain did not dampen spirits at the third annual “Xmas on 15th Avenue” Saturday, when, despite the weather, children frolicked in bounce houses, folks danced in the street and Santa greeted the crowds as volunteers distributed gifts.

“I didn’t mind getting wet because I cared more about getting my gift,” said Eimy Castillo, 10, as she waited patiently in line for a toy. “I ate ice cream and I had fun.”

Sponsored by Ark of the City, the Model City Neighborhood Enhancement Team and the City of Miami, the event aims to spread holiday cheer among low-income families.

“We wanted to show that there is still holiday spirit despite the shootings and killings that took place a few days ago,” said Terry Elliot, co-founder of Ark of the City.

The holiday cheer continued at Charles Hadley Park Wednesday, with another toy giveaway, this time including bicycles. Miami police gave out Christmas turkeys and there was a Christmas tree raffle.

Some 600 youngsters pre-registered to receive gifts at Saturday's event, with 270 more registering on-site.

“The kids were waiting and we didn’t want to disappoint them,” Elliot said. “If they were standing in the rain, we were going to keep on.” 

The festival started with a parade through the Liberty Square housing project led by the city police and fire departments, followed by members of motorcycle and car clubs and, of course, old St. Nick, himself.

Organizers were out at dawn to set up as police swept nearby streets to ensure a trouble-free festival. Police also ramped up neighborhood patrols in the days prior to the celebration.

Lodz Monroe, 28, mother of six, appreciated the gesture.

“I'm not working so any little event I can hit up where they can get a little something, I go,” she said.

Laquetta Vance, a nurse at Jackson South Community Hospital, waited in the rain for her grandchildren.

“It’s for the kids so it was worth it,” said Vance, 49.  “They enjoyed themselves, the hot dogs and the bounce houses.  It’s why I haven’t called my ride yet.”

Ana Perez may be reached at apere007@fiu.edu.

JAMES FORBES/FOR SOUTH FLORIDA TIMES. CELEBRATION TIME: Heavy rainfall could not keep Betty Geittin and her children , left,  from the third annual “Xmas on 15th Avenue” held Saturday. At right, top, biker Ruff Rider  Angel aka Hulk does some fancy stunt riding on his four- wheeler. Below: Motorcyclists were among spectators who turned out for the celebration.