Ah, the first day of December. Now the real holiday scramble begins.

Halloween, Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are behind us. Christmas and New Year’s Eve are dead-ahead. Are you ready?

You’d better be, because the Central Coast will really be hopping for the next couple of days. Motorists need to be on special, high alert, for reasons to be explained in a moment.

The weekend action begins in Lompoc at 6 p.m. this evening. The city is set to formally kick off its holiday season with the return of the annual Lompoc Children’s Christmas Season Parade, followed by a celebration that includes the lighting of the community’s Christmas tree. That should happen about an hour or so after the parade begins, and will occur at Centennial Park.

Tonight is expected to be a little on the chilly side, so bundle yourselves accordingly. Nothing spoils fun events like these more than a shivver-fest.

The main concern for motorists comes Saturday in downtown Santa Maria, which will be the site of a perfect storm of fun events.

Festivities will begin around 4:30 p.m. with Santa Maria's tree-lighting ceremony at City Hall, followed immediately by the Festival of Lights Fair at Town Center West.

Then comes the first of the really big acts, as Ed Sullivan was fond of saying — the start of the 23rd annual Parade of Lights at 5:20 p.m.

The excitement doesn’t end there. Around 7:45 p.m., the Santa Maria High School Saints football team will be appearing in its first state title championship game since the late 1980s.

See what we mean by the perfect storm? And the traffic could be a nightmare, with a lot of people arriving about the same time downtown.

Santa Maria city, school district and parade officials sat down earlier this week to draw up a plan to coordinate people and traffic flow through the city’s core. A good idea, because the Parade of Lights is one of the biggest events in downtown all year, and the championship football game will draw thousands more, including folks from out of town, and therefore unfamiliar with Santa Maria’s traffic-jam possibilities.

City officials want everyone to know about parking for the tree-lighting event available in the parking structures in front of the Santa Maria Public Library and at Town Center East.

The weather folks expect Saturday to be party cloudy and typically cool, which should help with the potential traffic issues, but may require warm clothing.

That’s all the technical stuff you need to know. We’d like to add that local drivers really need to be on their toes, beginning late afternoon today.

The holiday season has a way of energizing children — beyond their normal hyper-energetic selves — which means kids likely will be focusing on parade festivities and tree lights, instead of passing cars.

Add that to the excitement and distractions provided by the Saints taking their shot at a state title, and voila, perfect-storm conditions.

Saturday will be especially frantic for a lot of folks, thanks to the holiday and high school football events. But we’ll also have normal Saturday activities throughout the Central Coast, exacerbated by working folks using their day off to get some Christmas shopping done.

Tomorrow will be a special day, and one every local resident and out-of-town visitor should enjoy immensely. We all just have to make sure we do what is necessary to stay safe ourselves, and to work extra hard to keep our children safe.

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