Santa Paula Times

Santa Claus (photo above left) made an appearance at the 2011 Santa Paula Christmas Parade. Santa sat on top of a Santa Paula Fire Truck surrounded by children including Lynlee Harbison. Santa waved as children along the parade route shouted and waved back. (Above right) Grand Marshal of the 2011 Christmas Parade Elaine Hunt waves to the large crowd along the parade route. Her good friends Gena Rios and her 9-year-old daughter Samantha. road with Hunt.

Santa! 62nd Annual Optimist Club Christmas Parade delights thousands

November 30, 2011
Santa Paula News

Santa Claus came to his favorite city Saturday to delight the crowd at the 62nd Annual Optimist Club Christmas Parade, where everyone enjoyed “A Children’s Christmas” and cheered on the dozens of entries who marched through the historic downtown. Grand Marshal Elaine Hunt - the former coordinator and longtime advocate of FLAIR (Family Literacy Aid in Reading) - led the parade, the oldest such holiday procession in Ventura County.

Optimist Ron Merson said at Saturday’s parade, his 30th as coordinator, many spectators noted how long the parade was and how much they enjoyed the variety of entries. “I have been very impressed by the support of the community” whose love of the parade was demonstrated not only by cheering, said Merson, but also by the financial support offered when it looked like the event would not be able to afford new city fees.

Merson said a friend who lives in Pasadena drove up for the parade and, like others enjoying the procession, “He was very impressed.... I want to thank everyone who supported the Optimist Club and the Christmas Parade,” said Merson. “Our community made the parade a huge success.” 

Also a huge success was the winner of the Sweepstakes (Best Use of Theme) trophy, awarded to “Tradition of St. Cecelia” and its lineup of towering costumed characters such as Hello Kitty, My First Doll and others that reflected the joyous celebration of St. Cecelia, patron saint of musicians.

The parade lasted an hour, led by a show of equipment and personnel by the Santa Paula Police Department. Boys Scout Troops and Packs and the 187th Airborne Color Guard showed the flags. And veterans’ groups - Mercer-Prieto Post 2043, Korean War and Vietnam Veterans - garnered their usual strong applause and cheers.

Hunt was in a snazzy convertible, accompanied by Gena Rios and her daughter Samantha, representatives of Hunt’s late beloved friend Barbara Rios, a longtime FLAIR staffer. Ventura County Supervisor Kathy Long waved from a convertible that matches her red hair, and Santa Paula Mayor Fred Robinson was at the wheel of a cool vintage Fleetwood.

Santa Paula High School Cheer Squad showed some great moves, Isbell Middle School and Santa Paula High School Marching Band hit the right holiday notes, and the Girl Scouts celebrated 100 years of scouting with dozens of girls. Cub Scout Pack 3305 - the oldest pack in California - had a float that allowed their parents to ride along.

Various car clubs - some showed hydraulic moves - included Classique Touch, United Car Clubs of Ventura County, New Visions and MANX Club of Ventura County. The oldies were well represented by the Ventura County Ford Model T Club and the Conejo Valley Model A Club. 

Javier and Sarah Nava enjoyed the ride in their 1923 Ford T, like other car entries all a sparkle with holiday decorations. And there were plenty of kids showing of their first rides from the two bike club entries, Good Times and the Unbelievable Car Club.

Brown Berets looked snappy as they marched in unison, and SPIRIT Of Santa Paula marched in support of helping the hungry and homeless. Velvet 66, Topa Topa Flywheelers - many vintage farm tractors and other glorious machines - and Santa Clara Valley Bank as well as Santa Paula Community Bank showed off their personnel, while Relay for Life showed its strong supporting in fighting cancer through its annual fundraiser. 

Destiny Decorations showed off their party ware, and Via Nuevo Nazarene Church, Valle de Comunidad, Santa Paula Church of Christ and Poder Popular de Santa Paula were proud participants. Mobile Mini Training of Somis showed off a miniature horse and mini-quarter pony, each pulling decorated buggies. 

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 youth athletes and their supporters.

Other equestrians that thrilled the crowd included Rancho La Tunera with its dancing Friesian and Andalusia horses, authentically dressed charros and their mounts from Rancho Nietos and the smart carriage with wonderful steed driven by Abel Jimenez.

The community was also well represented by floats created by Santa Paula Hospital, Santa Paula Fitness, Vista Cove Care Center, Southwest Water, Heritage Hardware, McCoy’s Automotive, Crown Disposal and Raul’s Smog Test among others. 

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, Paul Chounet and Michelle Johns had about 60 entries to consider for prizes, and other winners were: 

Novelty Equestrian, 1st Chris Leech and Kim Shea - Miniature Horses, 2nd Abel Jimenez - Horse and Carriage 

Novelty Youth, 1st Girl Scout Troops of Santa Paula, 2nd American Heritage Girls - Troop 0304

Novelty Adult, 1st Vista Cove Care Center, 2nd Relay for Life 

Float, 1st Santa Paula Hospital, 2nd Vietnam Veterans of Ventura County

Auto-Single, 1st Mercer-Prieto VFW, 2nd Javier Nava - 1923 Ford T Bucket

Auto Club, 1st Conejo Valley Model A Ford Club, 2nd United Car Clubs

Marching Group/Drill Team, 1st Elgin’s Flores Brothers Kenpo Karate, 2nd Santa Paula High School Cheer 

To arrange to pick up trophies call Ron at 525-9439 in the evenings after 7 p.m. 

The parade will be broadcast on Time Warner Cable Channel 10 and 25 (schedule to be announced) and is available for viewing online,