by Mallory Moad
It’s Christmastime, and all over the Central San Joaquin Valley the season is being celebrated with parades. What could be easier? You just get a bunch of people, a few floats, and a marching band or two, and you’re good to go, right? Wrong! Behind every conglomeration of sights and sounds there are hours, days, weeks, and months of preparation and organization.
The Clovis Children’s Electric Parade, organized by Old Town Clovis Kiwanis, is one of the valley’s largest. It’s a big-budget production with expenses in the neighborhood of ten thousand dollars that attracts an audience of over 25,000. With marching bands, floats, live animals, and farm vehicles, this year’s illuminated pageant had a record-breaking 108 entries, 62 volunteers, and miles and miles of lights. According to Parade Chairperson Lora Heryford, planning begins in June and includes meetings, advertising, fund raising, volunteer training, and more meetings. On the day of the parade, streets are blocked off and safety measures taken. The end result is a showpiece that is fabulously flashy.
And then there is London.
I’m talking about London, California, not the big famous city with the big famous clock in England. With a population of 2,500 on a busy day, this tiny town, surrounded by orchards and vineyards southeast of Kingsburg, throws a party that is more sincerity than spectacle. The tradition of a Christmas parade began in 1993 under the guidance of a local non-profit organization, Citizens for a Better London. Many of the residents of London are migrant farm workers, resulting in a transient population that is always fluctuating. This annual event provides a reliable tradition that brings people together, proof that a sense of community can exist even if the community is small.
OK, this one has got to be a breeze to put together. After all, it takes place during the day, easy peasy. Wrong again!
Former CBL member and London Library founder, Robert Isquierdo, Jr. says planning for the parade begins in September when a date is chosen. “By October, participants are invited and promotional materials are created.” In November, participants are confirmed and CBL members are given assignments for the day of the parade. “Early December is when everything is solidified, and one last meeting is held to confirm duties.”
Even small parades are not without expenses. Like all public events, the London Christmas Parade depends on sponsors to help cover the cost of permits and insurance. “Dr. Kuldip Thusu has sponsored the parade for several years, and we are always grateful for that. We typically reach out to local businesses for sponsorship.” On parade day, participants assemble at noon in a large, open field where they are put in parade order. This year those duties will be handled by CBL members Terry Ruiz and Tony Brito.
The first London Christmas Parade had a total of five entries. At least twenty are anticipated this year, and you can expect to see restored vintage vehicles, costumed mascots ranging from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer to Frosty the Snowman and floats from local churches, schools, and clubs. There may or may not be a marching band this year (the Dinuba High School winter formal may throw a monkey wrench into the works). But London works with what it has to create something that’s always heartwarming and wonderful.
As Lora Heryford said, “It takes a village to put on a parade.” The size of the village—or parade—doesn’t matter. What’s important is people coming together to share friendship, family, and community pride. Merry Christmas, one and all!
My name is Mallory Moad, and I love parades, with or without marching bands.