Holiday cheer is floating through town

15,000 people expected at event, chairman says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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It’s time once again to bundle up with family and see “The Light in a Child’s Eyes.” The annual Festival of Lights Parade will be rolling through Auburn’s streets starting at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. The parade begins in Downtown Auburn at the intersection of Lincoln Way and Cherry Street. Floats will then proceed down Lincoln Way, turn left on High Street and move down to Auburn-Folsom Road. The procession will end at the Gold Country Fairgrounds, according to Steve Galyardt, parade chairman. Galyardt said 15,000 spectators are expected to fill the streets, and volunteers are still needed for the event. The parade, which is the official kickoff of the holiday season in the city, is more than just a regular event, Galyardt said. “It’s an institution,” he said. “When I came to this town in 2000, I was told you are not officially a citizen of Auburn until you have been to the Festival of Lights Parade. Some might say you are not officially a citizen until you have been in the parade.” The Auburn Chamber of Commerce is expecting 100 floats decked out with lights this year, said Chamber President Bill Radakovitz. “We literally turn people away, it gets so big,” Galyardt said. “This is Auburn’s way of kicking off the holiday season, and that’s what we are trying to do is bring the magic of Christmas to the children of Auburn.” Galyardt said no matter what the weather is like the day before the parade, it’s always freezing the day of. “We are always praying it doesn’t rain,” he said. If it does rain Saturday, the parade will be rescheduled to Sunday, Galyardt said. Galyardt said there is one big change to the parade this year that is also acting as a welcome to the upcoming Amgen Tour of California. Auburn will host the start of stage 3 of the 2011 race. “What is different is our grand marshal is the cycling community,” he said. “It will be represented by the three bike shops here in town, and the local riders will be coming with them. Because of the Amgen race we are going to highlight the cycling community.” The Auburn Presbyterian Church is working on a train of four floats for the parade. The church’s entry will also include a slightly furrier representative. “We have participated each year in the last five years,” said Karl Simon, a member of the church. “We have four floats in the theme of our (entry), and also there is a fifth entry. The fifth entry is a live donkey with Joseph walking the donkey from curb to curb, and Mary is sitting pregnant bareback on the back of the donkey riding from curb to curb. (Our entry) depicts the birth of Jesus.” Simon said the last float represents the creation of the universe, and each float will be adorned with thousands of lights. Ray Brewer, a member of the Auburn Jeep Club, said the group has been part of the community since 1951 and tries to participate in as many events as possible. “We are looking at at least 20 (decorated Jeeps) this year with some lights, and … Christmas trees, and different types of blowup decorations and lighted lawn ornaments and such that we put on them. Jeeps are our thing. It’s a fun thing to do. Everyone gets to be creative on their own, do their own design.” Brewer said the entry would include Jeeps dating back to the 1940s, brand new editions and everything in between. Katie Lester, of the Auburn Discovery Montessori School, said the school’s float represents various things. “It shows a lot of different things: the joy of Christmas and the celebration of Christmas,” Lester said. “It gives something for the kids to look forward to for the season.” Lisa Kodl, owner of Auburn Bike Works, said she is excited about the role the cycling community is playing in this year’s parade. “I think it’s awesome,” Kodl said. “I think it shows how much Auburn supports cycling in general, whether it’s road or mountain, because we’ll have both out there.” Ted Moore, secretary of the Sierra Foothills Cycling Club, said the grand marshal position just goes to show how much love Auburn has for cycling. “Obviously I think it’s a great thing,” Moore said. “It’s just been growing by leaps and bounds in Auburn. Our club is approximately 9 months old, and we have 260-plus members in the club already. The actual biking community is probably a lot larger than that.” Galyardt said the parade is an example of the small-town charm of Auburn. “Auburn isn’t Mayberry, but this is as close as we come to being a Norman Rockwell painting,” he said. “This is small-town America celebrating the holiday, and that’s really what’s special about it. When these parade floats come down the street, and you see the glow from each of the lights, like I said, it’s magical.” Reach Bridget Jones at ----------------------------------------------------- Festival of Lights Parade, “The Light in a Child’s Eyes” What: Auburn’s annual kickoff event for the holidays featuring 100 lighted floats When: 5:30 p.m. Saturday Where: The parade starts at Lincoln Way and Cherry Street and ends at the Gold Country Fairgrounds For information: Call the Auburn Chamber of Commerce at (530) 885-5616 or visit