By Roel Godinez
This past Saturday, from one to three o’clock, sections of Eucalyptus Avenue, South Santa Fe Avenue, Broadway and Main Street were closed to through traffic for the Vista Chamber of Commerce Annual Christmas Parade. This year marked the 64th anniversary of the parade, which began at the Vista Civic Center, snaked along for 1.3 miles, and ended in Vista Village by the Wave Water Park.
For two hours, holiday spirits ran high as colorful parade participants waved and wished the crowds a very Merry Christmas. Sirens, modern and vintage, rang merrily as school bands and color guards marched along. Homemade floats and eccentric vehicles dominated the scene with hydraulics, psychedelics, and choirs. In between were unique characters such as a woman on a unicycle, a walking soda cup, a giant heart, a stilt walker and Darth Vader.
“With 90 entrants, this is the largest parade we’ve ever had,” said Chamber staff person, Cathy Witschger. “We have a huge Grinch balloon, City of Vista Float with the Mayor, members of the City Council, their families and many walking teams. To join, they all registered with the Chamber of Commerce.” This years’ Grand Marshall was the Vista Fire Department. Members of the Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369 participated, the 369 Squadron has been adopted by the City of Vista and we support them and their family’s.
Though, for a fleeting moment, we saw each group and each of them came hoping to achieve their own goals and share their ideas. Many were trying to raise support for local causes. The strong sense of community was apparent in the diversity of participants, ranging from local businesses, social service agencies, schools, and clubs.
The San Diego Humane Society, for example, was working towards getting more dogs out of shelters and into homes. Others were trying to support their own local businesses, like Balloons & More, which appeared with a nine foot tall balloon gingerbread man.
The North Coast Vettes is a local club that raises money for needy veterans through their impressive collection of Corvettes.
“We do the Fourth of July parade in Oceanside,” said Larry Harker, member of the North Coast Vettes, “but it’s our first time doing this one, it’s an opportunity to support our neighbors because we’re all part of North Coast. So I think it’s gonna be exciting to participate and an opportunity to give back to the community.”
Helene Benesh, who is the flag coach for the Classical Academies in Vista, has been leading her students in this parade for ten years.
“My team began learning their parade routine in September,” she says “the impact of their participation in the parades allows my team to share the end product of all their hard work and practice with their community, all while learning leadership.”
This sense of community was most apparent in the plentiful spectators, who arrived early to gain a prime spot on the parade route. From silver haired seniors to babes-in-arms and everyone in between, there was a sense of peace and belonging within the moment, as only a parade can bring.
“It was crazy,” reflects first time spectator David Valladares. “It was crazy how much work these guys put into it. I really liked this parade and I think I’m going to bring my family next time.”