Steady winds and the risk of light drizzle weren't enough to deter thousands of people from crowding downtown Santa Maria Saturday night, filling the streets with Christmas cheer and holiday spirit for the city's annual Parade of Lights.
From businesses and non-profits to clubs, schools and city departments, 104 entries paraded from Broadway and Stowell Road, rounded the corner and disappeared into the Santa Maria Town Center. Now in its 24th year, the two-hour event is sponsored by the Rotary Clubs of Santa Maria and Nipomo, the Santa Maria Times and KCOY.
Sporting the iconic green and yellow Buddy the elf costume featured in the 2003 Will Ferrell movie "Elf," Mike Sell, membership chair for the Santa Maria Noontime Kiwanis, spent his evening aboard the group's float looking for Santa Claus.
"We went all out this year," said Sell. "We're trying to get into the spirit and do the best we can to show off our club."
Lining up on Stowell Road as early as 3 p.m., groups spent most of the late afternoon putting the finishing touches on their floats. Orcutt resident Ron Wilkins and his grandson, Ethan, lined the outside of their 1928 Ford Model A Roadster Pickup with string lights and replaced the back cover with an iconic Christmas morning scene: a model train zipping around presents and a Christmas tree.
Ron Wilkins said the car was purchased by his parents in 1964 and later handed down. With the help of his grandson, the two got the 90-year-old car fully functional four years ago. This year marked their third entry in the parade.
"We're a little weak on numbers because some of these Model A's you don't want to bring them out in the rain," he said. "We did come through a rainstorm or two getting here, but we're alright."
The City of Santa Maria's Utilities Department joined the Christmas spirit by covering one of their garbage trucks in rows of multicolored Christmas lights. Utility workers walked alongside the lighted truck — which blew bubbles as it rolled down the street greeting onlookers with smiles and candies.
Holding signs that said "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Holidays," and blasting singer Mariah Carey's cover of "All I want for Christmas is You," the Santa Maria High School Agricultural Education Department wore Santa and elf hats to get into the Christmas spirit.
Though he's no fan of Christmas, The Grinch — Dr. Seuss' green menace — made several appearances in costumes and on floats during the parade. Dance troupes from KT's All-Star Gymnastics and the Righetti High School cheer squads integrated songs from the classic and remake of the film into their dances, stunts and acrobatics.
"We're going all out and putting our best effort into the parade," said Varsity Cheer captain Serena Ramos, who has performed in the parade the past four years. "And besides, who doesn't love the Grinch?"