Santa Claus the hit of the Christmas Parade
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: November 28, 2012
Santa Claus came to his favorite city Saturday to delight the crowd at the 63rd Annual Optimist Club Christmas Parade, where everyone enjoyed “Christmas at Grandma’s” and cheered on dozens and dozens of entries that marched through the historic downtown.
Grand Marshal Ken Ary - longtime Lions Club member also known as Mr. 50-50 for operating the athletic program-benefiting raffles at SPHS sporting events - led the parade, the oldest such holiday procession in Ventura County.
Optimist Ron Merson said Saturday’s parade, his 31st as coordinator, “was fantastic... there was a large variety of entries which meant that there was something for everyone.... The weather was great, just right for a parade,” especially one that had about 60 entries and lasted more than an hour.
The parade got off to a flying start when dozens of doves, symbols of peace and the holiday, were released by trainer Pepe Gonzalez and soared above historic Main Street. Said Merson, “The doves were spectacular that added something new and interesting” for the parade watchers who lined both sides of East Main Street from 7th to 10th.
“We are very thankful to the community for all of their financial support and participation as an entry or spectator,” said Merson. “This is what makes Santa Paula such a great community.... Each year we make changes to improve the parade,” he noted, “and it shows on parade day.”
What also showed on parade day was the imagination of Santa Paula Hospital, which won the Sweepstakes (Best Use of Theme) trophy with a recreation of “Christmas at Grandma’s” - down to a rambunctious reindeer seeming about ready to run the old girl over. A Christmas tree that came alive and merry elves were also part of the prize-winning display.
A show of equipment and personnel of the Santa Paula Police Department led the parade, followed by the Optimist Club banner. Boys Scout Troops and Packs and the 187th Airborne Color Guard showed the flags.
A variety of other veterans’ groups - Mercer-Prieto Post 2043, Korean War and Vietnam Veterans - garnered their usual strong applause and cheers.
Grand Marshal Ary’s convertible also carried his wife Gloria and their fraternal twin grandchildren Zoey and Dillon, who came all the way from Texas to take part in the parade. Newly elected City Councilman Martin Hernandez and his wife Holly rode on a Harley Davidson motorcycle, and Ventura County Supervisor Kathy Long waved from a convertible that matched her red hair.
Santa Paula High School Cheer/Pep Squad showed some great moves in their Cardinal red, white and gold uniforms. Ventura Packers Cheerleaders also showed their cheering stuff.
There were two award-winning marching bands - Isbell Middle School and Santa Paula High School Marching Band hitting all the right holiday notes. And the Girl Scouts of America celebrated 100 years of Scouting with dozens of girls from the 20 clubs throughout the Heritage Valley. Cub Scout Pack 3305 - the oldest pack in California - and American Heritage Girls Troop of St. Sebastian Church also marched.
Briggs 4-H was rocking in western wear, while members of the Santa Paula Future Farmers of America helped with parade cleanup duties.
Santa Paula Relay for Life had a strong showing, including those wearing purple cancer survivor T-shirts, and the Castro Family and Friends Fighting Cancer showed off their team. State Farm’s Girl Team celebrated one year in the insurance business, while Xtreme U-13 Girls Soccer were relaxing in their PJs and listening to Grandma read a Christmas story.
Curves of Santa Paula and Santa Paula Fitness showed being healthy could be fun as well as good looking with their spirited parade workouts.
Various car clubs - some showed hydraulic moves - included Classique Touch, United Car Clubs of Ventura County and New Vision. The oldies were well represented by the Ventura County Ford Model T Club and the Conejo Valley Model A Club. La “M” 103.7FM showed off their musical van.
The Pachuco Car Club also showed off their vintage rides, and Santa Paula Community Bank had a nice 1933 Chevrolet to show off. Dr. Jared Lee celebrated the opening of his orthodontics office with the smiles of family and friends in a 1960 Ford F150, and Skillin Carroll Mortuary was lively in a nice vintage auto.
The giant costumed dolls of the Tradition of St. Cecilia delighted the crowd with their oversized heads and playful dancing, and plenty of kid members of the Unbelievable Bike Club were showing off their wonderful rides sponsored by Exotic City Empire. Kimura Farm Stand showed why it pays to shop fresh and local.
Brown Berets looked snappy as they marched in unison, and SPIRIT of Santa Paula marched in support of helping the hungry and homeless including its Many Meals program, which provided Thanksgiving dinner for 1,100 people. Parade favorites Topa Topa Flywheelers were also on hand showing off many vintage farm tractors and other glorious machines.
Destiny Decorations paraded their party ware, and Love International Outreach Fellowship, Santa Paula Church of Christ and Poder Popular de Santa Paula and Our Lady of Guadalupe Church each had a wonderful display.
Jethawks Baseball, Elgin’s Flores Brothers Kenpo Karate Studio, Santa Paula Youth Football and Cheer, Santa Paula Little League and Team Clutch filled the streets with more youth athletes and their supporters.
The spirited Fillmore Cowboys, Charros de Santa Paula and Rancho “El Coyote” had an array of horses and authentically dressed riders, including dancing Friesian and Andalusia horses in three separate displays.
But it was the very last entry that brought the crowd to its feet, yelling affectionately as a convoy of Santa Paula Fire Engines and equipment led the way with sirens blaring; and riding on the vintage 1923 Seagrave engine was Santa Claus himself, waving and smiling and letting all know he will return to Santa Paula in time for Christmas. Following the parade Santa visited SPFD Station 81, where he posed for photos with area boys and girls.
Judges Marleen Canniff, Robin Binder-Gillette and Dr. Paul Chounet determined the winners were: Sweepstakes (Best use of Theme) - Santa Paula Hospital; Equestrian - 1st Fillmore Cowboys, 2nd Rancho “El Coyote”; Novelty Youth - 1st Girl Scout Troops of Santa Paula, 2nd American Heritage Girls Troop 0304; Novelty Adult - 1st Santa Paula Fitness, 2nd Tradition of St Cecilia; Float - 1st Castro Family & Friends, 2nd Vietnam Veterans of Ventura County; Auto - Single - 1st La “M,” 2nd Santa Paula Community Bank; Auto - Club - 1st Conejo Valley Model A Ford Club, 2nd Ventura County Model A Club; Marching Group/Drill Team - 1st Santa Paula High School Pep Squad, 2nd Elgin’s Flores Brothers Kenpo Karate.
Call Merson at 525-9439 after 7 p.m. to arrange for trophy pickup. The parade will be broadcast on Time Warner Cable Channel 10 (schedule to be announced) and is available for viewing online, www.KADYTV.com.