Festival of Lights to illuminate Downtown Auburn

By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal staff writer
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In case you were wondering, Auburn’s holiday season officially starts Saturday night. Christmas cheer kicks into high gear with the Festival of Lights parade, which takes over Downtown Auburn Saturday evening. Presented by the Auburn Chamber of Commerce, this steeped-in-tradition parade draws thousands of spectators. “It is the event that kicks off the holiday season for us,” said Bruce Cosgrove, chamber CEO. First-time attendees should get ready for something special, said Steve Galyardt, parade chairman. “They can expect to be filled with the warmth of Christmas,” he said. The parade’s theme is “The Light in a Child’s Eyes.” “The whole focus of the parade is the children of Auburn,” Galyardt said. “This is all about kids and it’s all about Christmas.” More than 100 entries, many of which will be decked in holiday lights, will line the parade route, which this year starts at the Lincoln Way and Cherry Avenue, near the chamber, traveling down Lincoln Way to Central Square and then up High Street, past Placer High School and ending at the Gold Country Fairgrounds. “I think this is exciting because it is at night, and every entry is lit with Christmas lights of some kind,” Cosgrove said. Bill Radakovitz, who has been involved with the Festival of Lights for many years, counted 111 parade entries, not counting the fire engines. Event organizers announced earlier this week that local firefighters who fought in the 49 Fire will lead the parade. Radakovitz said registration for floats opens at 2 p.m. Saturday in front of the chamber, 601 Lincoln Way. The plan is to stage roughly 70 floats on Borland Avenue, lining up the rest on Lincoln Way, Radakovitz said. The parade ends at the Gold Country Fairgrounds, 1273 High St., where floats will be funneled into the main parking lot off of Sacramento Street. Spectators and parade participants alike should plan to bundle up, as the National Weather Service forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies and a low around 34 degrees Saturday night. “There’s not going to be rain,” Galyardt said. “I’ve checked with Santa. I’ve checked with the weather service. I’ve called the White House. It’s just cold. You’ve got to be prepared for it.” The city’s Streetscape project shouldn’t get in the way, as most Streetscape construction fences will come down in time for the parade, according to information provided by the City of Auburn. Some fencing will remain for safety purposes. “We told the city we were coming, one way or another,” Galyardt said with a laugh. “They’ve assured us that the majority of Central Square will be open.” Spectators should be more concerned with finding the perfect viewing spot. “By 6 in the morning Saturday people have already staked out their spot,” Galyardt said. Motorists should allow plenty of time for parking, and steer clear of the parade route after 5:15 p.m. No matter where festivalgoers end up on the parade route, they can expect to experience a winter wonderland. “Everything is lit up and it is magical,” Galyardt said. “This town is not a Norman Rockwell painting but we get pretty close on this night.” __________ Festival of Lights What: Annual Auburn Festival of Lights parade When: 5:30 p.m. Saturday Where: The route travels through Downtown Auburn starting at the top of Lincoln Way near the Chamber of Commerce office. The route will travel down Lincoln Way to Central Square and then turn onto High Street and continue past Placer High School and end at Gold Country Fairgrounds. Photos with Santa: Santa and his elves will be available for pictures from noon to 4 p.m. at Tango Frozen Yogurt, 940 Lincoln Way. The first 250 kids will receive a teddy bear. Professional photos are $5 or bring your own camera. Information: Call the Auburn Area Chamber of Commerce at (530) 885-5616 or visit Tree lighting: Mayor Mike Holmes lights Auburn’s new, living Christmas tree at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.