(Left) Santa offered a cheery “Ho-ho-ho!” to the crowd lining Main Street at Saturday’s 66th Annual Optimist Club Christmas parade that drew thousands to Santa Paula’s historic Downtown. The theme of the 90-minute long parade was “A Christmas Dinner.”

Christmas Dinner

December 02, 2016
Santa Paula News

The holiday season couldn’t have started with a bigger bang than the 66th Annual Optimist Club Christmas Parade that brought thousands of visitors to the historic Downtown for perhaps the largest procession ever.

At 90 minutes long with hundreds and hundreds of participants passing in front of packed sidewalks the parade raised the holiday excitement level a giant notch with veterans, marching bands, equestrians, floats, dancers, antique and classic cars, churches, businesses, elected officials, those hoping to be elected officials and others. Pepe Gonzalez released “Wings of Grace” doves as the parade approached representing the peace on Earth sought by all.

Many entries reflected the parade’s “A Christmas Dinner” theme with Grand Marshal Gabriella “Gabie” Araiza-Reeves, a community/civic activist and the owner of La Cabana Restaurant typifying food and family. Reeves was riding in a Corvette Convertible surrounded by her children Randy, Rick and Ron Araiza and daughter Karen Araiza-Reynolds when presented with the Grand Marshal plaque by Parade Director Ron Merson.

A float holding costumed La Cabana employees celebrating Gabie’s honor followed, all filmed by www.KADYTV.net where the parade can be enjoyed again.

Judges Marleen Canniff, Robin Gillette and Michelle Johns braved icy cold weather to select their parade favorites with prizes awarded later at the Gazebo.

Moderator Peggy Kelly and assistant Anita Gonzales and Santa Paula Recreation Department soundman Everardo Ramos kept the parade going although it was a force of its own.

Santa Paula Police blared their sirens to start the parade and the Santa Paula Fire Department’s Engine 1, a 1923 Seagrove engine, ended it with Santa riding atop, waving at the children and shouting season greetings.

In between there were waves of entries: following the Optimist Club banner came the Boy Scout Troops and Packs Color Guard, the 187th Airborne Color Guard, Isbell Condor Marching Band and the Christmas Parade Poster contest winners. More kids having a great parade time were the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Clara Valley followed by jeeps and trucks carrying Mercer-Prieto VFW Post 2043 and Korean War Veterans Association Ventura County Chapter 56 veterans, who like the Airborne, brought rousing cheers from the crowd as did the Vietnam Veterans of Ventura County.

Santa Paula Vice Mayor Martin Hernandez, a candidate for 3rd District County Supervisor, waved to the crowd as did Supervisor Kathy Long, her red coat and hair matching her convertible.

Camarillo Vice Mayor Mike Morgan, Carla Castilla and Jesus Torres, also running for Supervisor, waved to the crowds, as did Rafael Dagnesses who is seeking a Congressional seat.

The Topa Topa Flywheelers, a parade favorite, drove by regally the assortment of antique and classic farm equipment always a crowd favorite followed by the dozens strong Santa Paula Unified School District Student Leadership. On the move was the Ventura County Model A and Conejo Model A clubs, crowd favorites, and then Relay for Life, who sticks to running, walking and strolling for the annual American Cancer Society fundraiser.

El Brillante, a famed Camarillo White Horse owned by Fox Trot Ranch, was introduced to the world of parades ridden by his trainer Jay Moreno. 

Everyone was urged to “Look alive!” for the entries by Skillin Carroll and Robert Ray Garcia Jr. mortuaries, each welcomed with applause and Santa Paula Hospital and its Auxiliary volunteers went all out with a float paying homage to Peanuts and his Gang and their holiday meal.

Jill Johnson’s Dance Studio had the kids hopping when they stopped in front of the viewing stand to show off some of their best moves and State Farm — owned by Salena Maloney-Bracamontes — urged people to keep their belongings safe and insured.

The roar heard a block away signaled the arrival of dozens of members of the Motorcycle Riders of Ventura County who revved up their engines for the crowd. The Trail Life USA Troop 3304 had a strong turnout of dedicated kids for the troops inaugural year recognizing Father — now St. — Serra. 

A cadre of marchers filled Main Street from side to side with the Poder Popular de Santa Paula entry that included traditional Chinelos dancers, wearing elaborate disguises including masks imitating the fair skin and beards of the Spanish along with elaborate dress and gloves, a way in the 1800s to make fun of the invading elite before Mexicans reclaimed their country. 

It was only fitting that the entry was followed by the Santa Paula High School Cardinal Marching Band, a group that dominates many of the competitions it is entered in.

JC Kids from Templo de Milgaro showed they remain a popular entry, as did the United Car Clubs of Ventura County showing off dozens of sweet rides all decorated for the season.

The Vista Real Charter High School Vipers brought their Chinese dragon mascot carried by several students and members of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, accompanied by Father Charles Lueras, showed off their float.

A romantic buggy and carriage was part of the Jose Melgar Photography entry and American Heritage Girls had an ambitious display of all that it takes place setting-wise to enjoy Christmas dinner. You couldn’t get much livelier than the Santa Paula Youth Football and Pep Squad and the SPHS Big Brothers and Big Sisters chapter showed they have the stuff to mentor elementary school kids.

La “M” 103.7 FM brought their van and encouraged people to tune in and 

The Girl Scout Troops of Heritage Valley, Santa Paula Troops were founded in the 1930s, showed it is celebrating 103 years of bettering the lives of girls.

Our City Church urged participation, as did Santa Paula Little League and the Team Clutch that brought dozens of kids ready to play ball.

Santa Paula Fitness danced up a storm of healthy moves including a one dancer wearing a Merry Fitness shirt, and Rancho Las Palmas showed that being a charro or a cowboy is hard work but made easier atop gorgeous horses dancing to a band following the entry. 

Fred Robinson, President/CEO of the Santa Paula Chamber of Commerce helped celebrate the organization’s 100th anniversary at the wheel of his 1958 Ford convertible while the Santa Paula Kiwanis Club — also celebrating its centennial — had a float featuring members and Club President Carol Wood.

The Vipers Baseball Club took to the streets to help celebrate the holidays and the Nite Life Car Club of Ventura County cruised by with numerous cars that those in the crowd said they would love to see in their Christmas stocking.

Santa Paula Community Bank Division President Don Tello was at the wheel of his Corvette and the Esperanza Project showed off the programs and activities it has for troubled youth.

Raquel Gomez and Luis Chit Insurance urged parade goers to check out their State Farm policies and a start-up ministry, the ? Mustard Seed, was in the parade to urge nonprofits to call them for assistance. St. Sebastian School’s float featuring students and holiday decorations followed Vista Cover Care Center. The Fillmore, Santa Paula and Oxnard Charros, Cowboys and Cowgirls mixed costumes with fine-stepping horses wearing beautiful gear.

Charity umbrella SPIRIT of Santa Paula led the way for Santa Paula Diamond Cheer whose entry showed “Family & Friends for Christmas” and the Casa del Mexicano brought more cheers for its decades of community service. The Baker Family Tractor was much admired, as was the Channel Islands Logistics truck, the sweet rides of the Nosotroz Car Club and Ventura County Agricultural Museum’s entry of an oversized tractor advertising its post-parade Holiday Celebration. 

Of course it was the Man with All the Toys, Santa Claus that brought down the house at the end of the procession.

Merson said sponsors were especially generous this year in helping to cover the cost of the parade as well as the trophy and ribbons for winners.

“The weather was a bit crisp,” a welcome relief from heat or rain but no matter what the weather, “The Optimist Club is ‘The Friend of Youth’ and there were plenty of children at — and in — the parade! My Optimist crew did a great job getting the entries lined up and down the parade route,” including Merson’s personal favorite entry, “The black Fresen horse…

“People say they love the parade because we are a small town and they know a lot of folks that take part in it…that is exactly what I hoped for! And this year we had an even larger crowd and entries.”

Winners of the 2015 Optimist Club Christmas Parade were: Jill Johnson Dance Studio, the Sweepstakes Award for Best Use of Theme; Equestrian, 1st Rancho el Paraiso, 2nd Fillmore Cowboys and Oxnard Charros; Novelty Youth, 1st Templo del Milagro – JC Kids, 2nd Trail Life USA Troop 3304; Novelty Adult, 1st Santa Paula Fitness, 2nd Relay for Life; Float, 1st Santa Paula Hospital, 2nd Our Lady of Guadalupe Church; Auto, 1st United Car Clubs of Ventura County, 2nd Motorcycle Riders of Ventura County. 

“Remember to enjoy the parade again on www.KADYTV.net,” said Merson. To make arrangements to pickup ribbons you have not received please call Merson at 525-9439 after 7 p.m. in the evenings.

Parade Grand Marshal Gabriella “Gabie” Araiza Reeves (top row, middle), a community/civic activist and owner of La Cabana Restaurant waved to the crowd surrounded by family including (top row, left and right) son Ron Araiza, daughter Karen Araiza-Reynolds, (front seat left and right) and sons Rick Araiza and Randy Araiza.

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