For more than a century, the city of Hemet has hosted its annual Christmas parade at the beginning of December, to welcome in those good tidings to you, and all of your kin. This year’s parade kicked off Saturday, Dec. 3, at 10:00 am, and lasted a little over an hour and a half with a whopping 4,000 people in 104 entries, from high school marching bands, to Hemet Fire Department’s grand Santa finale.
“The Gift of Volunteering” was this year’s theme, and parade coordinator, Stephany Borders and her business partner Shirley Maddox had their hands full, to say the least. According to Borders, the Christmas parade takes almost an entire year to plan and organize.
“You notify people and they don’t always get back to you,” she explained. “The last three months before the parade are ‘the big crunch.’ But every time we go someplace, or see a group, we talk to them and encourage them to be in the parade. We’ve got our applications with us and we hand them out.”
Aside from the recruits, most of the 104 entries were re-registrants from last year, who are happy to do so traditionally. City council members such as Mayor Bonnie Wright, Karlee Meyer, Michael Perciful, and Chuck Washington all had floats or rides of their own. Nearly every middle school, high school, and surrounding areas’ marching, cheer, dancing teams, and JROTCs also participated. Local churches, businesses, and organizations had their respective slots.
And whether you prefer commuting around on something with four legs, or four wheels, both horse and car enthusiasts got their spotlight in the parade this year. 64 horses participated, while five different car clubs were represented in the parade; everything from antique cars of the early 1900s, to arsenal and power trucks, as well as two motorcycle groups (I guess those have two wheels).
Stephany met her husband while working with the Hemet Junior Chamber of Commerce (Hemet JCs). Since the JCs’ disbandment, the parade coordination responsibilities were handed over to the city, and that’s when Stephany took over.
In previous years, Stephany, her husband and their son, would use the Walmart Neighborhood Market parking lot to stage the various bands, ROTC, cheer groups, AVID groups, and other organizations. However, this year the parking lot was not open for use, so Stephany and her crew had to relocate to the Forest River RV manufacturing facility for staging.
“That was great,” she praised. “We couldn’t do it without them.”
According to Borders, there were a lot of factors to consider, such as safety concerns and gaps between similar entry/float types, when coordinating the order of the parade entries.
“We had 11 bands in the parade this year, and 22 floats had music in them, so that kind of went out the window,” joked Borders.
The parade began on west Florida & Palm avenues (with announcers San Jacinto Councilman-elect Russ Utz and Trinity Houston), and ended at Florida Avenue and Kirby Street, and the town lined the streets in droves…from the kids who darted into the street to grab passed out candy, to adult residents who came out for some holly jollies in their spirits.
The festivities continued at Gibbel Park for “Christmas in the Park,” where 82 vendors, live entertainment, kids’ crafting stations, train rides, jumpers, and food were available for the estimated 5,000 people that visited.
Judy Hoffman-Wade, Timothy Kubo and Nikki Hutton will be judging the parade units this year. The judging categories for the parade consist of: Animal, Antique-Auto, Middle School Bands, High School Bands, School Marching Units, Floats, Motorized, and Decorated Walking. The first place trophy winners will be announced at the first city council meeting in January 2017.