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Party on a float

Liam Hill threw himself a parade for his sixth birthday party, pairing the event with the city's holiday celebration - and unleashing his own toy chest

While many kids his age celebrate their sixth birthdays at Bullwinkle's or Chuck E Cheese's, Liam Hill, a kindergartener at Marylhurst Early Childhood Center in Oregon City, rang in his new year a little differently.

For his birthday Saturday, he took center stage aboard a float in West Linn's annual holiday parade.

'We wanted to do something a little different,' his mother, Kim, said, 'and Dec. 10 was actually his birthday.'

Playing off parade's 'Babes in Toyland' theme,' the Hills designed their 'My Toy Chest' float so that party guests could be costumed as the toy of their choice.

About 15 of Liam's friends joined him on the float, dressing up as a jack in the box, a raccoon, an elephant, a witch, a Transformer, an Angry Bird, Buzz Lightyear and even karate Santa.

Liam went as a toy soldier - a more traditional holiday toy.

Kim said she made the toy solider costume by hand, armed with a glue gun and gold buttons and Ric Rac, creating a hat and embellishing a red fleeze sweatshirt that Liam wore backwards. He wore black pants and carried a sword to complete the look.

In order to construct their float, Kim and her husband, Lloyd, rented a U-Haul trailer and went to work building a box around its perimeter using materials leftover from an office renovation at Lloyd's architectural firm - 2' by 4's, a staple gun and duct tape along with plastic tablecloths from the Dollar Store.

The Hills ordered banners that read 'My Toy Chest' for each side of the float and came prepared with a tarp in case it rained the day of the parade.

They said building the box around the trailer's wheel well was a particular challenge, and that they were working on the float until 10:30 p.m. the night before the parade.

The Hills also provided party guests with bags of candy to throw to their friends and neighbors along the parade route down Willamette Falls Drive.

The candy was all gone within the first block of the parade, however - all 10 pounds of it.

'I wish I saved a little,' Liam said.

Once the party had completed the parade route, Liam and his friends warmed up with a visit to Santa at the Willamette Fire Station.

Because he hadn't yet opened his birthday presents, Liam said he told St. Nick he'd send him a list later to make sure he didn't give him something he already had.

Partygoers then refueled with birthday cake and a pizza lunch before calling it a day.

Looking back at the day's festivities, Liam said that, despite the excitement surrounding the parade, his favorite part was blowing out the candles on his cake.

In the future, Liam - a three-time veteran of West Linn's Old Time Fair parade - said he'd like to participate every other year, so he could take turns being the candy catcher instead of the candy thrower.