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Our View: Parade of Lights a wonderful event easily made better

Our View
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Auburn’s Parade of Lights was an outstanding success, thanks to Chairman Steve Galyardt, the city and hundreds of participants and volunteers. It could be even better, though, with some minor tinkering. The occasion was joyous with the Sugar Plump Fairies delighting thousands and some great holiday music performed by the Placer High School band, the Pyronauts and local churches and youth groups singing carols. Fifty to 60 volunteers on the street helped direct crowds, along with a full contingent of Auburn Police. Because of the winter date, the first Saturday in December, weather will always be a concern. In the future, a firm plan should be made and unveiled to the public well in advance of the parade. Having the parade rain or shine is neither safe nor practical during a downpour or extreme storm. There should always be an alternate rain date scheduled a week away. This year a light sprinkle did not cause major problems. Sunday night, considered as an alternative, would have been drenching. The city of Auburn paid thousands for a parking study a few years back. The result? The study found there is supposedly plenty of parking in Downtown and Old Town Auburn. Huh? Anyone trying to find a parking space after 5:30 p.m. Saturday knows that is not, in fact, true. Cars were parked illegally in a multitude of locations, and some residents had the audacity to put up their own “no parking” signs on public streets. That should be discouraged. The Elks Lodge on Pine Street had plenty of parking available, but chose to keep out anyone who was not a member. Perhaps Elks leaders could be a little more hospitable? The city and lights parade committee must publicize where they want the 10,000 to 15,000 attendees to park. Bus transportation from the Gold Country Fairgrounds is a workable idea, if there are incentives. Maybe a prime viewing location could be roped off for those who arrive by public transportation? Another challenge is that residents who live in the affected areas cannot get in or out during the parade and shortly after. The city and parade committee need to notify Downtown-area residents well in advance so alternative plans can be made. The lineup of floats, bands, church groups and animals from Welsh corgis to goats to llamas to horses also needs to be better organized. There were long gaps in the parade route while other groups were too bunched up. A state-of -the-art sound system with announcers Downtown and by Placer High School would also be a tradition worth returning. How about a live broadcast by KAHI? Many of the groups participating in the parade were not easily identifiable and had messages to share, but were unable. Another idea would be to have the chamber and business associations offer post-parade events, such as caroling, a movie at the historic State Theater and perhaps a VIP party. Businesses could stay open later and restaurants could offer parade dinner specials. All this would stimulate commerce, keep people in town and even out the traffic flow after the parade. Auburn’s Festival of Lights parade is fantastic. It is a signature event that brings the entire community – young and old alike – together in the spirit of the season. It is small-town Americana at its finest. With a little tinkering and more organization, it could be even better. Of course the success it enjoys today brings in a such a huge crowd and subsequent traffic jam, that maybe bringing in even more people should be carefully considered beforehand. It’s always good – even after a highly successful event – to look back and see what could be improved. The 2010 Festival of Lights Parade, themed “the Light in a Child’s Eye,” earned high praise. Congratulations to all who worked to put this together, who participated and who braved the cold and rain to watch. Happy holidays.