The lights of Broadway dazzled and awed Saturday night as the 2007 Santa Maria Christmas Parade of Lights gave the holiday season a grand introduction

The parade featured 110 entries, including local businesses, churches, charities, schools and social groups. Entries traveled north on Broadway from Stowell Road to the Santa Maria Town Center.

Both sides of Broadway were lined with spectators early on, with the employees of PB and Associates planning ahead and setting up a raised campfire pit in front of their office, to keep warm through the procession.

Sitting near one of the multiple announcer booths along the parade route, the Olson family from Vandenberg Air Force Base was attending their third Parade of Lights in a row, according to husband and father Jeremy Olson.

BThis one just loves the lights,C said Mary Olson, pointing toward her 4-year-old son, who was hollering BMerry ChristmasC at passing floats.

BIt/s just a good time for the family,C Jeremy Olson added.

Four Rotary clubs 7 Santa Maria Breakfast, Santa Maria South, Santa Maria Noontime and Nipomo 7 organize the parade, which is sponsored by the Santa Maria Times.

Parade entries competed for ,2,700 in prizes. Santa Maria High School/s Black Student Union Step Team captured the Grand Prize Overall Winner Award, organizers said.

Since 1995 the parade organizers asked spectators to get into the giving spirit by bringing non-perishable and canned food to donate to the Salvation Army. Last year/s parade watchers donated 3 tons of food for the less fortunate.

New to the parade this year was the Rotary Winter Wonderland, a slippery snow play area for children, 8 years old and younger, located at the parade route/s endpoint, the Town Center.

Also new to this year/s parade was Cal Coast Machinery with a John Deere-themed float.

BWe/re excited that we were chosen,C said Russel Maa, a sales manager with Cal Coast, one of the many employees decked out in John Deere apparel.

Maa said his company had hoped to add more lights to their truck float, and would be studying other floats for tips on generator and light wiring for the 2008 parade.

BThis year, we/re coming for fun. Next year, we/ll hopefully win something,C he said.

Old favorites also filled the parade, including the Santa Maria Fire Department. Already equipped with flashing lights, the firefighters added a CHave a fire safe ChristmasC banner, and a good number of additional lights to their truck.

The California Highway Patrol/s helicopter was back, scanning the crowd with its spotlight.

Santa Maria Area Transit buses had participated in the Parade of Lights since the very start of the event more than 50 years ago, but for SMAT bus passenger Victor Huritrom, riding shotgun from inside the lighted transit bus, it was a completely new experience.

BThis is my first time in it, and hopefully not my last,C said Huritrom, adding he had been an parade spectator for years.

The long list of entries had its fair share of crowd pleasers. Cub Scout Pack 93 of Santa Maria impressed parade commentators with their lung capacity, shouting BMerry Christmas from Pack 93C in unison.

Union Asphalt may have taken the title for most lights per square inch on a vehicle, by draping almost every inch of a cement truck in shining bulbs.

The Santa Maria Relay for life float designers actually counted their bulbs, 25,000 this year.

St. John Neumann Church led a coalition of Catholic churches in presenting five floats, each one depicting a biblical scene.

Bob Luke, an employee of Olivera/s Towing had parked in a nearby lot, on call in case a float required a little help to make it through the route. In 2006, Luke and Olivera/s entered the parade, but did not have the time to enter this year.

BBeing in it was fun, but I like seeing everything,C he said, perched on top of his truck to see above the crowd.

Glenn Wallace can be reached at 688-5522, Ext. 6007 or gwallace@santamariatimes.com.

December 2, 2007

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