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What: Hangtown Christmas Parade — A McIntire Family Tradition
Who: City of Placerville
Where: Broadway and Main Street in Placerville
When: Sunday, Dec. 2 at 1 p.m.
Information: 530-626-3849 or 530-642-5232
The McIntire family doesn’t have to contact Santa anymore. Santa calls them — wanting to make sure that he and his elves put the Hangtown Christmas Parade on their calendar.
This year the parade is on Sunday, Dec. 2 and Santa is already getting ready to make his appearance as the final entry in the parade, as he has for the past 35 years.
The parade has grown from 20 to 30 entries in the 1970s to its current extravaganza of 80 to 100 entries. Floats, car clubs, fire equipment, motorcycle groups, carolers and choirs, marching bands, horses, performers, horse drawn vehicles, tractors and big rigs roll down Broadway and Main Street in Placerville to the delight of the community.
“We limit it to 100,” said Jim McIntire, 73, ” but we’ve had as many as 150.”
“It gets crazy long when it’s that big,” said Cathy McIntire Patterson, one of Jim and Betty McIntire’s four adult children and a parade organizer. “It puts life on hold in Placerville for four hours.”
McIntire, who formerly owned the Goodyear Tire dealership on Broadway, was approached by Dave “Doc” Wiser to start a Christmas parade. “I was the president of the chamber of commerce and I was involved in getting the Wagon Train parade off Highway 50 and onto Broadway and Main Street in the 1960s. Those were great parades so Davey said I should put on a Christmas parade.”
The entire McIntire family helped put on the parade from the beginning and at least 10 of them are still actively participating in the event.
“Our family gets together in July and brainstorms ideas for the theme,” said Patterson, “We get about a million ideas and some of them stick. A theme gives our entries ideas for their floats and boy, do we have some creative folks in our community.”
This year the theme is “Let the Bells of Freedom Ring,” and the Grand Marshal is Charles Harris, father of U.S. Army Spc. Douglas Harris, a double amputee. The family lives in Somerset.
Harris is representing his son, who has to return to Bethesda Naval Hospital before the parade. The vehicle carrying the Grand Marshal in the parade will be driven by family friends Don and Brenda Morgan. At Spc. Harris’ request, it will carry a banner bearing the names of the five El Dorado County soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Doug wants to make sure they are recognized and honored for their contributions,” said Lisa Harris, Harris’ mother.
Once the theme has been chosen, application forms are put together. This year, for the first time the city of Placerville is the sponsor of the parade accepting the applications.
“When we first started,” said Patterson, “we mailed application forms to every organization in the area we could think of, hand-addressing every envelope. Now people search us out to enter, starting in June.”
In August, a parade committee consisting of the McIntires, parade marshal J. Stirling, Jill Baker and representatives from the police department and city staff begin monthly meetings to organize the event.
Stirling, who has been the parade marshal for the entire 35 years, sorts the application entries into categories, giving each one a number and a place in the lineup and making sure the lineup is both safe and entertaining. Jill Baker prepares the lists for the announcer and the judges.
“We don’t have any big rules, except that no one can represent Santa on their entry. No blow up Santas, no Santa hats, no one dressed up like Santa on the floats,” said Patterson.
“There’s only one Santa in the world,” said McIntire, “and we don’t want to confuse the kids.”
Santa has the place of honor at the very end of the parade so that children have the fun of anticipating his arrival.
On the day of the parade, volunteers spread out at the three main staging areas, organizing the horses and animals at Schnell School, the band, carolers and marching units in the Mountain Democrat parking lot, and the cars, floats, big rigs and miscellaneous vehicles in the Grocery Outlet parking lot.
“It’s like a controlled crash landing,” said Patterson.
“The first years we enlisted help from the Wagon Train association,” said McIntire. “Now we get help from lots of people.”
The parade always begins with an honor guard — often members of the El Dorado Fire Protection District, the Hangtown Detachment of the Marine Corps or other branches of the military services. It always ends with Santa, followed by the police … and the pooper-scoopers.
“I can’t tell you how many years my kids had to be the pooper-scoopers,” said Patterson.
“Now no one in the family will volunteer to do it,” said McIntire.
The parade happens rain or shine. At the start of one of the Christmas parades in the early years, it began to rain.
“Some of the guys were coming up to J. Stirling, asking if we should cancel the parade,” said Patterson. “He looked over the entries all gathered in one location and saw this little girl. She was dressed in a beautiful riding outfit complete with fancy hat and riding skirt and she was in a carriage, ready to go. When he saw the determination on her face, he said, ‘We’re going, rain or shine.’”
Through El Nino years when the dancers in skimpy costumes performed through driving rain that blew in sideways, the parade has continued. “Sometimes the weather has shortened the parade as some entries don’t participate,” said McIntire, “but even if we only have three entries, we have the parade.”
“The parade is our gift back to the community,” said Patterson.
The focus of the parade is not only to bring joy to the children of the community through its festivity, but also to support the Marine Corps “Toys for Tots” program. ”
“When my sister, Sharon, joined the Marines, Toys for Tots was their program, so our Goodyear store supported it,” said Patterson, “When the national Goodyear corporation heard about what this little store in Placerville was doing, they adopted it as their national charity, too.”
The entry fee has always been unwrapped new presents for children. “The Toys on Rocks’ Car Club has about 20 to 30 Toyotas in the parade and each one of them brings a brand-new bicycle,” said Patterson. “They drop them off at the Belltower for the Marines to pick up.”
There have been surprises during the parade, like the year KCRA meteorologist Mark Finan was Grand Marshal of the parade.
“Joe Vicini drove the royal court in his calliope. When the calliope stopped near the Belltower, a young man ran out from the crowd and used the announcer’s microphone to ask the queen to marry him,” said Patterson. “That was pretty special.”
She said, “Yes.”
The three judges, Mimi Escabar, Doug Noble and Bob Billingsley have been judging the entries and awarding first and second place trophies for many years. Escabar has judged every year for 35 years.
“It’s one of my favorite events,” said Escabar. ” I really look forward to it.”
This year’s parade is on Sunday, Dec.2 , beginning at 1 p.m. It moves down Broadway to Main Street in Placerville. Spectators are encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped Christmas gift for a child and drop it off at the Belltower before or after the parade, or at Toys for Tots barrels around town. Please do not try to drop off gifts at the Belltower during the parade.
For more information about the parade call 530-626-3849 or 530-642-5232.
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or [email protected] Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.