A sunny blue sky on a Sunday morning: it’s 11:15 a m, almost two hours before the start of the Christmas Parade, and Downey was on the move.
Children in hats sprouting antlers, parents in Santa caps and wearing backpacks with snacks, carrying collapsible chairs or slinging them over their shoulders like unplayed instruments; from every direction families converged on tightly corseted Downey Avenue.
From Florence south to 2nd Street, the sidewalks of Downey Avenue were to be the reviewing stand for the Downey Chamber of Commerce’s annual Christmas Parade. Members of the Downey Police Department already stood at the cross-streets with barriers to assist with traffic control.
Little pooches in form-fitting green coats, and a big black poodle arrived; teenagers and oldsters with walkers and the occasional wheelchair congregated, toddlers holding hands with grandparents; babies wheeled in strollers: all trekking into place to see dance groups, cheer teams, horses, cars, floats and troops.
The Chamber’s Michael Calvert did it again: organized a magnificent assembly of floats, marching bands and vintage cars to kick off the holiday season.
The names we would now like to give, the pictures of faces, the history behind the banners. But this story is for all those who, with the best of intentions, have ever started out early – and discovered they were not early enough. The lemonade this story offers is the Parade to see the Parade, and the pride this community shows, in appreciating the efforts behind the marchers.
One couldn’t ask for a better day. Morning winds had whipped away yesterday’s rain clouds, and then gone away themselves. Every parking space and curbside for the next square mile was filled, and the First Baptist Church’s sign added to the festive air of the parking spaces it shares with the Library, Theatre, Embassy Suites and Wells Fargo Bank: “Bah-Humbug.”
Lots to admire in Downey: the way the thick-leafed liquidambar trees line up smartly at City Hall, where the parade will end, their coats of deep red and mellow yellow glistening in the sun. Three flag poles, here and on the Civic Plaza in theatre standing at attention, holding the Stars and Stripes, the Downey colors and California Bear flag, all at half-mast in honor of President George H. W. Bush who died Nov. 30. His thousand points of light will be remembered and reflected in the Lighting the Tree at the Center on Monday.
Among the parade-to-come promises: Grand Marshal Martha Sodetani, beacon of loving and sharing in her own life, with the parade theme, Christmas of Giving.
Downey Fire Department takes pride of place in the parade with Engine Number 62 that just returned from serving in the Woolsey fire above Malibu. Bright red and gleaming with wax now, it was coated with soot and crusted with grime in that awful conflagration. Downey firefighter Strike Team XLE-1283A and ST XLG-1363A were deployed.
More highlights in the two-hour extravaganza: a brightly decorated float for Miss Downey and her royal court, representing the best in young people in our community; Downey Rose Float Association’s entry for that other festivity, Pasadena’s New Year’s Parade; the Downey Symphony made its first appearance in ten years, since Harold Tseklenis drove his Mercedes SL10. This time, Maestro Sharon Lavery waved from an open vintage Packard to celebrate the Orchestra’s 60th successful season of presenting fine classical music here.
Note to self: next year, check ahead with Chamber for best time to arrive, and when do barriers go up on Downey Avenue’s side streets. Two hours not enough when limited mobility makes close-in for parking and walking a must.
One thing we know for sure: the last float in the Parade marked Santa Claus’s entrance into Downey. He’ll be at the Tree Lighting too, available for photo op with kiddies and enchanted grown-ups.
The season has started, and the spirit is upon us. As Tiny Tim would say, “God bless us, even the too-late comers, every one.”