Parade, princesses, and plaques of appreciation
■ Kyle Selby / Reporter
Santa came early this year to Hemet West Mobile Estate Park, where the senior community held its ninth annual Christmas parade Saturday, Dec. 16.
“A lot of faith and patience,” said Larry Graves, revealing the secret of how he’s managed to organize the parade every year since 2009. “When you’re working with 90+ [year olds], you’ve got to be patient.”
While Graves, also president of the park’s homeowner’s association, was familiar with the virtue few possess, he also had the help of three crossing guards and a band of helping elves.
The eldest residents of Hemet West are highlighted every year, since reaching the 90-year mark is an impressive milestone. The women residents are encouraged to doll themselves up, and dress in their finest clothes, as they are spotlighted in the parade as the Hemet West “princesses.” Naturally, each is provided with a tiara to sport during the festivities as well.
“It’s something they can get excited about,” said resident Toni Lou Gordon. “Every year they get to dress up and be apart of the parade like royalty. I think there’s so much negative news in the world today, it’s nice to see that positive things like this are still happening.”
A total of 31 women, and 16 men make up the over-90 population of Hemet West, many of them are veterans.
Former president of the Democratic Club of Hemet, Marie McDonald, was the newest princess to join the royalty club. “This is my first year, I just turned 90!” beamed McDonald. “It’s wonderful, it’s so exciting!”
Twenty-four vehicles participated in the parade, from golf carts to military carrier vehicles, to a 1987 Mustang convertible.
After a majestic ride around the park on their carriages, the parade ended at the Hemet West rec center, where the residents snacked on coffee and cupcakes.
Santa Claus was also making his rounds, passing out candy canes and being photographed with the princesses, each of whom was presented with her own Christmas rose.
After a couple of photo shoots, the princesses surprised Graves with a plaque of appreciation on behalf of the homeowner’s association, which nearly brought Graves to tears.
Grateful, Graves repeatedly thanked everybody in the room for making it another successful Christmas celebration.