Unseasonably warm temperatures and an appearance from jolly old St. Nick himself drew hundreds of joyful New Canaanites to the downtown shopping district Friday evening for festive foods, fun and shopping at the fifth annual Holiday Stroll.

"The people out tonight are great, the kids are having fun and it's a nice warm night -- what could be better?" said Bobby Smalheiser, who strolled about the merriment with his wife Layne and their two 12-year-old golden retrievers, Clancy and Kelly, who were dressed for the festivities in giant colorfully patterned collars.

On Elm Street, carolers of all ages took advantage of the street barricade and joined for a festive on-stage sing-along.

While "The Twelve Days of Christmas" resonated about the shopping district, a pair of young girls butt heads and locked their felt reindeer antlers together. Outside Pinocchio Pizza on Main Street, a clan of boys sat slouched against a painted window slurping on sodas and shoveling down slices of pepperoni pizza.

Standing as tall as the old-fashioned street lamps lining Elm Street, Gina Allison called out to a group of young girls huddled outside Dorothy Mann.

"I wouldn't go in there -- they never have my size! Well, they might have yours," she joked, looking down on the girls from her perch atop a pair of 2-and-a-half-foot tall stilts.

Suited in a gold-tasseled coat with a coin-sized red dimple painted on each cheek, Allison jigged and joked with the children in what she said was her 20th year on stilts. Allison, who got her start with Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus, stilt-walked the stroll in toy soldier garb this year.

"It's so much fun. I've never been so popular as when I'm on these," she said, lifting a leg to reveal a giant black slipper beneath her pant leg.

The Holiday Stroll commenced at 5:30 p.m., but the unofficial kick-off began one hour later when Santa Claus arrived with elves and reindeer in stride to greet the zestful children and enjoy the holiday window displays and light-trimmed tree branches.

The evening wound down to a halt at 8:30 p.m. when shopkeepers locked up and the throng -- Santa, too -- retreated home.