114-entry-strong parade puts twinkle, sparkle into holiday season kickoff

Spectators line route to see floats, bands, pageantry
By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal Staff Writer
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The Festival of Lights parade jingled all the way through Auburn Saturday evening. Starting at the Gold Country Fairgrounds and walking, pedaling, cart-wheeling, hoofing, strumming, singing and Merry Christmas–ing their way through town, the 114 groups making up the parade kicked Auburn’s holidays into high gear. David Hartman, of Auburn, watched the parade with son Guy Hartman-Cocco and daughter Mya Hartman-Cocco. “We come every year,” Hartman said. “It gets us in the mood for Christmas.” “Yes, it does,” Guy, 12, added. “Christmas is my favorite holiday, ever.” Mya, 6, also enjoyed herself. “It’s fun, and you get treats,” she said. Hartman said Saturday’s turnout was impressive. “I just think for a small community, for everybody to come together for this is really special,” he said. Parade spectators filled the streets of Downtown Auburn, some setting up chairs early in the day in order to have a front-row view of the local churches, businesses, clubs, fire engines, pageants, marching bands and other community groups that made up Saturday’s parade. Auburn City Council members rode their motorcycles in the parade, adorned with holiday details like the silver streamers dangling from Bridget Powers’ handlebars. “I can’t believe how many people are here,” Powers said. “It is so fun, and the little kids, they wave at you and say ‘Merry Christmas.’ I love it.” Gordon Murdoch, wrapped in red star lights, walked the parade route with the Knights of Columbus Council 6149, which he said has participated in the Festival of Lights for at least a decade. “For us, we try to get the word out, to keep Christ in Christmas, and it’s so much fun,” he said. “It’s just a great family thing, to bring us all together.” The Boys & Girls Club of Auburn served as the collective grand marshal of the parade, with dozens of boys and girls walking Jesse Perlow, 6, opted to dress as Santa for the Boys & Girls Club’s grand marshal duties, wearing a white beard and even carrying his own “sleigh” made of cardboard cutouts and Dollar Store decorations. “He said, ‘I want a Santa hat and I want a sleigh,’” stepfather Kristian Grasberger said of Jesse. Jesse even gained weight for the parade, his belly bulging under his red sweatshirt. “He just ate too many cookies this morning,” Grasberger joked. “No, it’s just a pillow,” Jesse said. Tristan Harness, 12, of Roseville, dressed like a gingerbread man and paraded with the Ophir 4-H Club. “I’m kind of hot in this right now,” she admitted at the end of the parade route. Overheating aside, Tristan had a good time participating in the Festival of Lights. “My favorite part would have to be dancing, and giving high fives to the kids,” she said. The parade came to a close with the arrival of the final float, carrying Santa Claus atop his sleigh. A crowd of good girls and boys greeted Santa as he got off his sleigh, waiting their turn to meet the jolly old elf. Stuart Wenger, 7, of Auburn, had something in common with Santa—both wore red caps lined with white fur. Stuart walked away happy because Santa gave him a teddy bear. All in all, Saturday’s Festival of Lights was a great night. “I like it because you get to hang out with your family,” he said. The Journal’s Loryll Nicolaisen can be reached at Click here for more photos ----------- Winning parade entries Sweepstakes Award: Auburn Presbyterian Fantasy/Humor Award: Sugar Plump Fairies Spirit of Christmas Award: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Business Award: CH2M Hill/OMI Volunteer Award: Knights of Columbus Best School Award: Golden Hillmen band and color guard Wheels Award: Native Sons of the Golden West Best Music: The Pyronauts Youth Award: Ophir 4-H Best Critters: Sierra Pacific Great Pyrenees Club