Disappointed that last year’s Christmas Parade was cancelled due to a downpour, a committee of local residents, with the Mountain Democrat taking the lead, have promised that this year’s parade will take place.
Last year’s parade was cancelled after the city of Placerville decided inclement weather made it too hazardous to proceed.
But that decision was roundly criticized by those who spent hundreds of hours organizing and preparing for the parade and who braved rain, wind, snow and sleet in years prior.
Also upset were the Toys for Tots volunteers who rely on the parade to supply a large portion of the toys they give to children at Christmas. Luckily, they were able to largely recoup their losses by collecting gifts the following weekend at the Belltower.
This year, supporters were worried the parade would again be cancelled due to continuing hard feelings between the city and the McIntire family, the family that started the parade, until Richard Esposito, publisher of the Mountain Democrat, stepped in and said the newspaper would sponsor the event.
With that commitment in place and a coordinating committee comprised of Mountain Democrat personnel, City Parks and Recreation Director Steven Youel, Jill Baker, Cathy McIntire Patterson, Adam Levine, J Stirling, Norm Hammond, Placerville Police Lt. Kim Nida and Sue and Hollis Henderson with Toys for Tots, the parade was back on.
35 years and counting
A celebration of Christmas as well as a kickoff event for the Toys for Tots campaign, the Christmas parade in downtown Placerville had its start in 1977. Cathy Patterson said it was her father, Jim McIntire, who established the parade after friends suggested it to him. Being very civic-minded, he came home one day and said to his family, “this is what we’re doing.”
There were only about 10 entries the first couple of years, but since then it’s grown and grown and become a tradition, said Patterson. There have only been five or six years when the weather was really bad, but nonetheless the parade took place, at least until last year.
The story of how the parade got its reputation for being held rain or shine dates from an event that happened five or six years after it started, according to J Stirling, who’s been marshaling the parade since it began.
It was a particularly miserable day for the parade, he said, with lots of rain and sleet. The decision was made not to hold the parade, with those in charge adjourning to the Cary House.
Stirling said he and his fellow marshal Skip Gilmore were walking up and down the staging area when they spotted a little girl, 8 or 9 years old, in a buggy with her pony. She had taken protection under an overhang and was dressed to the nine’s in her velvet dress. She was miserable and cold but she was ready.
“I told Skip, I’m not telling her we’re not having a parade after she’s been up since 3 or 4 a.m. getting herself and her pony ready. Skip didn’t want to have to tell her either. So we lined everyone up and sent the parade downtown,” Stirling said.
Later someone went to the Cary House and said to the folks in charge, “Nice parade.” They said, “What parade?”
“After that, rain or shine became our motto,” said Stirling. “We have done it in rain, snow, hell or high water. We were all very disappointed when it was called off last year because of the rain downtown, but that was the city’s call. It broke quite a few peoples’ hearts. But I’m glad to see the Mountain Democrat stepped up to make sure the show goes on.”
The parade means a lot to people,” said Esposito.
“When I heard that it might not take place without our involvement, and the possibility of losing this wonderful El Dorado County tradition, I felt it deserved to continue on. The newspaper was in an ideal position to take it on as we have people who have been involved with the parade since its inception. They have a real good understanding of the inner workings of what it takes to put the parade on,” he said.
Capturing the spirit of Christmas
“We will hold true to what folks did in prior years,” he said, “but with better staging.”
Broadway Plaza has been designated as a new staging area, replacing the Mountain Democrat parking lot, now leased to Tractor Supply Co.
“We would also like to include some marching bands but we don’t know if that will happen since school will be out of session and the parade falls on the Thanksgiving weekend.
“One of the most exciting parts of this year’s parade, will be a tribute to Jim McIntire, who will be the grand marshal. Since the beginning he has helped select the grand marshal but never held the honor.
“It was sure a feat for someone like Jim to take on this parade year in and year out, to organize it and get it done every year for the kids,” Esposito said.
“However the main focus will be on the parade as a way to provide Christmas toys for children and Christmas spirit for the community,” said Esposito.
“What we hope we can capture is the true spirit of what this parade is all about. It’s about the children. Children who are disadvantaged and don’t get to celebrate Christmas like other kids. Even with the parade called off last year, they were still able to collect a lot of toys and some cash to buy toys. And that was awesome. People came out and rallied around the kids and that’s what it’s all about,” he said.
The parade will be held Sunday, Dec. 1 at 1 p.m., along Broadway and Main Street in downtown Placerville. Esposito said it will be held rain or shine, but if an earthquake happens and all the buildings fall into the street, well, that may be another matter.
People can pick up an application to be in the parade at the offices of the Mountain Democrat, 2889 Ray Lawyer Drive, or the El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce, 542 Main Street. Applications can also be downloaded from their respective Websites. Completed applications can be turned in at both locations as well as the city of Placerville Parks and Recreation Department, 549 Main Street. There is no cost for being in the parade other than an unwrapped toy for a boy or girl.
For additional information, call the parade hotline at 530-344-5088.
So put that date on your calendar now because rain or shine, the parade is on!
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.