• Christmas Parade of Lights: Santa Maria Holiday Tradition Celebrates 25 Years

    What traditions do you have  during the holiday season? For many in Santa Maria, the annual Parade of Lights has for years served as the unofficial kickoff to the holiday season. This year, the parade is celebrating and impressive 25 years in Santa Maria under the leadership of the local Rotary Clubs.

    “The parade is a great time. I love how it brings the community together and kicks off the holiday season,” said Mike Gibson, a longtime Rotarian who has been involved in helping with the parade for a number of years. Gibson says he is proud to be a part of bringing such a festive and fun event to Santa Maria each year.

    The holiday parade in Santa Maria has actually been around in one form or another since the 1980’s, when the local Lions Club managed the event. Fast forward to 1994, and the parade ran out of manpower and funding, so the Rotary clubs stepped in the take it on as the Santa Maria Parade of Lights. The parade is now truly a community effort, with the three Santa Maria Rotary Clubs (Breakfast, Noontime and South) and  the Rotary Club of Nipomo all helping organize the event. 

    Since that time, the parade has been  running down Broadway from Stowell to Church Street bringing holiday cheer to the community. With 103 entries and an estimated 3,000 people participating, the event is certainly a community affair. The crowd estimates in recent years of the parade have been between 25,000 and 30,000 people, with an additional 7,500 people turning in to watch the parade’s live broadcast on KCOY and KKFX.

    Entries in this year’s Parade of Lights are judged on the best use of lights, with 7 first place prizes of $350 and second place prizes of $150. One overall sweepstakes prize of $1,000 is also awarded.

    But for most participants, being part of the parade isn’t about taking home the big win; it’s about being part of the Santa Maria holiday tradition.

    Donna Randolph with State Farm Insurance says her business has been participating in the parade for over 10 years.

    “We love the parade because it brings the city together,” Randolph said. “What city wouldn’t get a lift of community spirit after seeing the parade in all its glory?”

    Randolph encourages all community members to check out the parade and support the local community. “Bring a can for the food drive, and enjoy the holiday season while watching all the work that goes in to those amazing floats,” she said. “Seeing the beautiful children and families in Santa Maria lining the streets brings so much joy to me and my team.  Its an annual tradition for me and my agency and we get more from seeing the pure joy on those beautiful faces than we could help get in return.”

    This year’s 25th Annual Parade of Lights will take place Saturday, December 7th beginning at 5:20pm. The Santa Maria Chamber will be hosting their Chamber Member Christmas Social during the parade  - you can find us at the booth under the bridge at Broadway and Main. 

    Additional details on the Chamber Member Christmas Social can be found at santamaria.com. Additional information about the 2019 Parade of Lights, including the parade route and float entries,  can be found at www.smparadeoflights.org.