Pleasanton's annual Hometown Holiday parade and tree-lighting ceremony will be held starting at 5 p.m. today on Main Street.
The centerpiece of this free event is a festive community-based parade with 75 entries, including the marching bands from both Foothill and Amador Valley high schools, other musical groups, Scouts and, of course, Santa Claus at the end.
Many of our elected leaders will be there, too. Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, who represents Pleasanton on the county board, will ride in a "Cowboy Christmas" float with a few constituents and members of his staff.
Also waving to crowds of thousands of onlookers along Main Street will be:
* State Assemblywoman Catharine Baker (R-San Ramon) in a car
* Pleasanton's Mayor Jerry Thorne and members of the City Council in a horse-drawn carriage
* Members of the Pleasanton school board, walking
* Uniformed veterans who are members of Pleasanton's American Legion Post 237 and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 6298, walking.
There will be more colorful floats than ever among the hundreds of walkers and decorated cars. This year's floats represent Abbie 4-H, the Alameda County Fair, Cub Scout Pack 901 from Alisal Elementary School, Characterz Cafe & Coffee Roasterz and Cub Scout Pack 938.
Other floats will represent East Dublin Girl Scouts, Fairlands Elementary School's Girl Scout Troop, Dublin's Frederiksen Elementary School's Girl Scouts and a float by local artist Gary Winter.
Cub Scout packs 948 from Valley View Elementary School and 910 from Walnut Grove Elementary also will parade on Main Street in home-built floats.
Meadowlark Dairy's popular float will be back in the parade this year, along with floats representing the Pleasanton Middle School cheer team, Pleasanton Military Families, the Pleasanton-Tulancingo Sister City Association, the Tri-Valley Lady Blue Devils and the Valley View Elementary Girl Scouts.
Besides the horses pulling the Pleasanton City Council, two other horses will be in the parade, representing the East Bay Regional Park District volunteer safety patrol and the "Spirit of Christmas" white Baroque horse from the Baroque Horses of Northern California.
Dancers in the parade will include Expressions, Jazz N Taps Dance Studio and the Yangge Dance Team.
Even the Wheels Rapid Bus will be in the parade, but with its representatives riding in a car.
And, of course, we'll be there with Pleasanton Weekly president and publisher Gina Channell and editor Jeb Bing riding in a decorated convertible reminding everyone along the way to give to the 2016 Holiday Fund campaign now underway.
No holiday parade is complete without Santa, who is being saved for the end by parade managers Brian Dutchover, the event chairman, and Michelle Dunaway, the city's event administrator.
Santa Claus -- and new this year Mrs. Claus -- will close the parade riding on the top of the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department's 1945 Mack classic fire engine.
Main Street will be closed to vehicular traffic starting at 4 p.m. tomorrow until the parade and tree-lighting events are over.
Downtown tree-lighting follows parade
Mayor Jerry Thorne will pull a switch on the stand in front of the Museum on Main at about 6:45 p.m. tomorrow to light the city's holiday tree.
The annual tree-lighting ceremony follows the holiday parade on Main Street and includes holiday songs by Voices in Harmony, a men's a cappella chorus.
About 120 strands of LED lights are used to wrap the branches of the deodar cedar tree, which was planted about 15 years ago. That comes out to about 3,000 lights on the tree.
The tree has grown to over 60 feet tall, which is now taller than the boom that the parks maintenance crew uses to string the lights and hang the ornaments.
"It's becoming a challenge to get to the top of the tree," said Michelle Dunaway, the city's event administrator.
Working with Dunaway in coordinating the tree-lighting ceremony and entertainment are Chuck Deckert, Susan Andrade-Wax, Linda Ebright and Rob Vogt.
The tree will stay lighted through New Year's Day.
It takes a village to put on a parade
Not to be forgotten as the annual Hometown Holiday Celebration gets underway are the members of the Pleasanton city staff and community volunteers who plan and conduct the event.
They start with a debriefing shortly after the prior year's parade and then begin planning the next holiday parade in summer.
Then volunteer parade chairman Brian Dutchover and the city's event administrator Michelle Dunaway start holding monthly meetings with members of the parade steering committee, later holding those meetings at 7:30 a.m. every Tuesday as the event nears.
Working with Dutchover and Dunaway are the heads of six committees: Parade, Special Activities, Volunteers/Staff Assignments, Operations, Tree Lighting & Entertainment and Publicity/Contract.
Tom Medina serves as parade coordinator, aided by Julie Parkinson and Derek Logan who handle the formations, Brad Kinney and Sean Welch keep units on the parade route, Mark Duncanson and Nile Velazquez give units the step-off signal, and Mark Spiller and Kara Yost help units disband at the end of the parade.
Another 15 volunteers and city employees staff the committees, including Tracy Dunne, who handles the event's publicity.
In addition, more than 80 other volunteers are signed up to help on the day of the event.
"We are so fortunate to live in a community where people like to get involved," Dunaway said. "This event would not be possible without the help from these wonderful volunteers, many of whom return each year."