Above, The Santa Paula Fire Department had a convoy of engines, Sparky the Fire Dog, plenty of firefighters and their families, along with sirens blaring, the last engine carried the most important man at the Christmas Parade, Santa Claus who waved to the cheering crowd. Right, Children/Youth Librarian Ilene Gavenman led the parade as Grand Marshal. Ilene along with her grandchildren Talia and Teagan McKnett wave to the crowd as they moved their way down the parade route. Below, Blanchard Community Library float won the Sweepstakes Trophy,” for Best Use of Theme, this year recognizing that “Every Day is Christmas in the Library!”

Crowd enjoys 64th Annual Optimist Club Christmas Parade

December 04, 2013
Santa Paula News

By Peggy Kelly 

Santa Paula Times

What could be the largest ever crowd stood 10 deep and spilled off the sidewalks in some spots along the route of the 64th Annual Optimist Club Christmas Parade where Santa Paula’s famed weather was just a bonus to the famed celebration of the coming holiday.

“What a beautiful day!” said Optimist Ron Merson following the 33rd parade he has coordinated, the oldest such holiday procession in Ventura County. 

He noted that many commented on the large turnout including SPPD Sgt. Jimmy Fogata who has a policeman’s eye for estimating crowds. 

And, Merson said with Children/Youth Librarian Ilene Gavenman leading the parade as Grand Marshal, it “Was particularly appropriate that the Blanchard Community Library float won the Sweepstakes Trophy,” for Best Use of Theme, this year recognizing that “Every Day is Christmas in the Library!”

He noted library volunteer Laura Phillips “Said all the items used for the float, except for the books that were made, came from the library. They did not realize there are so many items in the library,” one of the few independent libraries in the county.

And with the parade being live-streamed, “Bob Allen of KADYTV.net received a text from City Councilman Martin Hernandez that he was watching the parade live in Kentucky!”

The parade is archived for viewing on demand on KADYTV.net and Time Warner Cable Channel 10 was also on hand to film the parade with announcers Erin Teague and Jose Leon for later broadcasts. 

The procession was judged by Robin Gillette, Michelle Johns and Kendall Tate; Anita Gonzales assisted street announcer Peggy Kelly, as did City Recreation Department sound coordinator George Cancino. 

Wings of Grace Doves were released by Pepe Gonzalez, officially signaling the beginning of the parade.

Police Chief Steve McLean waved from a classic convertible holding his wife Kathy and daughters Kristen and Lisa followed by police vehicles and the Explorers van. 

Boy Scout Troops 304 and 302 and Cub Pack 3304 provided a Color Guard and the “Rakkasans” 187th Airborne Color Guard Chuck O’Donnell Chapter Ventura County all marched to rousing cheers.

The Isbell Middle School Marching Band set the holiday beat wearing snappy black and white uniforms leading the way for Grand Marshal Ilene Gavenman, who was accompanied by her husband Howard and granddaughters Talia and Teagan McNnett of Camarillo. Gavenman has worked for BCL for more than 36 years and is treasured by the community.

The Friends of the Library helped coordinate the BCL float that followed Gavenman showing how every day is Christmas in the library with the gift of reading. 

More cheering was in store for Mercer-Prieto VFW Post 2043 led by Commander Jerry Olivas and Korean War Veterans Association Ventura County Chapter 56 Commander Dave Lopez who were accompanied by dozens of veterans. Both groups also saluted Richard Ruiz with portraits showing the late community and veterans’ activist. Vietnam Veterans of Ventura County also got a rousing welcome and thank you from the crowd.

Elected officials included Rep. Julia Brownley and Assemblyman Das Williams who wished the crowd a happy holiday; a representative of Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson was also on hand. 

Bob Vogel led Topa-Topa Flywheelers atop his love machine, the vintage tractor he loves and uses to pull a passenger vehicle filled with happy family and friends. Other Topa-Topa Flywheelers, always parade favorites, followed Vogel.

The Santa Paula Youth Pep Squad was a flatbed of fun and enthusiasm and Santa Paula Hospital had a fantasy float of the friends children can make through reading such as the Alice in Wonderland characters along for the ride. As always, riders also wished Dr. Sam Edwards and his family very special season’s greetings. 

“A Book, Glass of Milk and Cookies” could only be the Girl Scout Troops of the Heritage Valley, who were wearing traditional red Santa hats and took song breaks to entertain the crowd.  American Heritage Girls Troop 0304 from St. Sebastian’s Church were wearing their red, white and blue uniforms while celebrating their 4th year!

Mayor Ralph Fernandez was riding on the Briggs 4H float.

Melgar Photo Studios showed several events typically calling for a talented photographer and Santa Paula Relay for Life-whose theme this year is “Peace, Love & Cure”-celebrated breaking the $1 million mark in raising funds for the American Cancer Society. 

SPIRIT of Santa Paula Many Meals found the strength to march although the group and volunteers had served 1,100 Thanksgiving meals to the homeless, hungry and elderly. 

Briggs 4-H had a flatbed full of club members which now totals 95 kids honing their life skills, Crown Disposal had a shiny holiday red truck to show off, and the Ventura County Model A Ford Club members showed off their vintage 1928-1931 rides to the cheering crowd.

The Blanchard/Barbara Webster Schools Leadership Team each wore a Santa hat and carried a book to signify not only the parade theme but also their interest in and pursuit of higher education.

Destiny Decorations/Party Rentals and Services showed off some of the fun things they can provide for any celebration big and small as well as part of the event planning they do at their Main Street store.

La “M” 103.7 FM showed off their van and urged that all tuned to in to enjoy their station but people didn’t have to go far to enjoy the “Tradition of St. Cecelia” giant dancing dolls crafted in honor of the patron saint of musicians, an entry including popular cartoon characters that delighted the crowd. 

State Farm Insurance Agency owner Salena Maloney-Bracamontes encouraged all to be prepared to cover any losses while having holiday fun and staff, residents and friends of Vista Cove Care Center showed a story time with Santa’s elves. 

Always a parade favorite the Santa Paula High School Marching Band played rousing holiday tunes as they marched in time to the music and the cheers continued for Cub Scout Pack 3305, the oldest such pack in the state of California! 

Pachuco Car Club had a strong showing of sweet rides and “Peace, Unity and Respect” in their hearts as they showed off their classic cars used to help raise money for various community causes. A Farm School showed why the preschool is one of the most popular with its emphasis on outdoor settings and agriculture.

“The Three Kings” were shown in the colorful Nativity scene created by Our Lady of Guadalupe Church while Casey Salas and Manuel Gonzales took “A Christmas Ride to the Library” showing off their fine steeds, Salas’ Arabian she has ridden in numerous Rose Parades and Gonzales Andulusian that danced with delight.

A bright red 1933 Chevrolet coupe held Santa Paula Community Bank Division President Don Tello and Bernice Suggs, a car that looked like the red nose on Rudolph when followed by the flatbeds holding the Santa Paula Little League and the Team Clutch baseball teams, tons of kids that waved to the crowd. 

Lovie’s Kids were dressed as elves and showing their best salsa/Latin moves with instructor Lovie Hernandez a fun way to exercise, socialize and perhaps grow up to compete on Dancing with the Stars!

Poder Popular de Santa Paula showed that a Healthy Body, Healthy Mind and Active Community is the best   for residents and Juan Lujan Transportation & Friends showed off equestrians, H&H Auto Body and Banda Huracan del Pacifico providing lively music.

People were looking alive when Skillin & Carroll Mortuary came by with a decorated trucksand Elmo, always a favorite for the children and Temple de Milagros had a spirited marching group.

Ramirez Tax Service showed that the family business makes your business their business and the Santa Paula Future Farmers of America were as usual crowd pleasers showing off the two vintage tractors fully restored by members including those riding a decorated flatbed truck.

Santa Paula Fitness gave everyone a workout with a truckload of dozens of costumed Zumba dancers showing off their best moves under the direction of owner Dr. Vanessa White while the Museum of Ventura County Agricultural Museum had a pedicab filled with elves inviting all to attend the fun activities immediately following the parade at the former home of The Mill. 

The Valle de la Comunidad Church float had children wearing Christmas hats, fully stocked bookshelves and Grandma reading a book to the kids awaiting Santa Claus. 

Conejo Valley Model A Club was joined by the Model T Club of Ventura County for an automotive display that delighted the crowd and the Fillmore Cowboys followed showing how it was done in the days of just one horsepower.

Santa Paula High School Cheer and Pep Squad followed by Santa Paula Youth Football again showed why local kids are the best.

The Santa Paula Fire Department had a convoy of engines, Sparky the Fire Dog, plenty of firefighters and their families. And with sirens blaring the last engine carried the most important man at the Christmas Parade, Santa Claus who waved to the cheering crowd and promised he would soon return with presents for those who have been good. 

The parade said Merson, “Was the perfect length, one hour,” and he was pleased at the success of this year’s event.

“I was very happy with the parade and all the enthusiasm from the entries and the crowd!”

Winners of the 2013 Christmas Parade “Every Day is Christmas in the Library”:


(Best use of Theme)

Santa Paula Blanchard Community Library


1st Juan Lujan and Friends

2nd A Christmas ride to the Library - Casey Salas and Manuel Gonzalez


1st Santa Paula Youth 

Pep Squad

2nd American Heritage Girls - Troop 0304


1st Vista Cove Care Center

2nd Tradition of St Cecilia


1st Santa Paula Hospital

2nd Destiny Decorations


1st Melgar Photo Studio 

2nd Santa Paula Community Bank - Don Tello


1st Conejo Valley Model A Ford Club

2nd Ventura County 

Model A Club


1st Santa Paula Union 

High School Band

2nd Isbell School Band

To make arrangements to pickup ribbons you have not received call Merson at 805-525-9439 after 7 p.m.  

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