Kudos to Brian Dutchover and Michelle Dunaway for their year-long effort to make sure last Saturday's Holiday Parade was a success.
Dutchover is the parade chairman and Dunaway the city's event administrator. They hold monthly meetings with members of the parade steering committees, all volunteers, moving those sessions to 7:30 a.m. every Tuesday as the event nears. Those six committees are Parade, Special Activities, Volunteers/Staff Assignments, Operations, Tree Lighting & Entertainment and Publicity/Contract. Scores more of volunteers are recruited each year to serve on those committees.
This year's Hometown Holiday Celebration, which included the parade and holiday tree-lighting was the biggest ever and a resounding success. You could see that early on with many of the night's spectators lining Main Street with their beach-type chairs well before 8 a.m. and with many more set up than for previous parades.
When city staff and the event's committee volunteers met at the Veterans Memorial Building at 9 a.m., there was clearly a buzz that this parade would set records. Three stages where parade announcers called out the groups passing by were set up at noon with early arrivals already there with questions. The Main Street closure started at 3:30 p.m. as noted on "No Parking" signs in place the day before. Even so, tow trucks kept busy moving cars from the parade pathway.
Parade entries arrived at the Amador Valley High School parking lot starting at 3:30, according to parade staff plans, where volunteers in bright yellow jackets assigned each arrival with a unit number. Although 79 units signed up in advance, 74 actually showed up, with parade staff alerting the announcers to adjust their scripts.
By 5 p.m., Dutchover and Dunaway and their teams were ready, and the Foothill High School marching band, led by the flashing lights of Pleasanton police motorcycle escorts, stepped off onto Main Street where a record crowd of well over 20,000 spectators lined the sidewalks and outdoor dining tables. The 2,800 participants in the parade, included more floats and auto entries than walkers. Another 120 combined city staff and volunteers worked the event.
New entries this year included the Callahan Family World War II Duck, Kona Ice, Pleasanton Unified Gay Straight Alliances and Pleasanton Field Hockey. It also was great to see collaborative entries, including Destination Imagination with East Bay SPCA; Abbie 4H with Alameda County Fair; Pleasanton Unified Gay Straight Alliances with PUSD staff.
Not to be overlooked were the tried and true entries that we enjoy seeing year after year, including Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, East Bay Star Wars Fan Club, both the Foothill and Amador Valley High School bands, the Balloon Platoon, the Pleasanton Police D.A.R.E. program, the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department and the Pleasanton Military Families. Also a first was Mrs. Claus, who traveled here for the parade with Santa.
Summing up her views on the event, Dunaway said:
"I have been involved with the Hometown Holiday Celebration for the last 15 years, and have served as the event administrator for the last nine years. What I love most about this event is that year after year, people arrive with their families and friends to kick-start the holiday season. It's just what they do the week after Thanksgiving. It becomes an annual tradition for many.
"What warms my heart more than anything is seeing everyone walk away with a stronger sense of community, purpose and belonging. We all come from different backgrounds and cultures, but this one event seems to serve as a catalyst for the shared values of the small-town community feel that Pleasanton is known for."