The theme of this year’s Fallbrook Christmas Parade couldn’t be more perfect… “The Gifts of Christmas.”
When the holiday spirit begins to fill the air on Saturday evening, Dec. 5, and staging is in full swing for this year’s parade, those “gifts” are going to be visible and plentiful when the procession begins at 5 p.m. and makes its way northbound on Main Ave. from Ammunition Rd.
Participants in the parade enjoy the gift of fame for the evening – riding on a float, or in a pickup bed, with bright decorations, waving to the multitude of spectators. They enjoy the gift of friendship – spending time along the parade route visiting with those they are involved in activities with. And they enjoy the gift of participating in something positive that brings smiles to people’s faces – lessening their worries for a few hours.
Spectators enjoy multiple gifts as well. The variety of ages seen in the parade underscores the gift of connectivity that the event offers. Seeing and enjoying the delight on children’s faces is a gift that provides a feeling of incomparable holiday warmth. And mindful of its roots, the parade is a gift of indeterminate value from Fallbrook’s businesses affiliated with the Chamber of Commerce.
“The Christmas Parade is a gift to the community of Fallbrook from the Chamber of Commerce,” said Chamber CEO Lila MacDonald. “I grew up with this parade since I was a child. I was my son’s age when I first pulled a wagon down Main Ave. with my brother, towing our family friend’s (Renee Kirby’s) daughter with my Mom’s business name pasted on the side.”
Roy Costello, with the valuable help of his wife, Linda, has served as chairman of the Christmas Parade for many years. They own Costello’s Auto Repair, a second-generation Fallbrook business, and are dedicated Chamber affiliates. Roy makes no secret why the Christmas Parade is important to him.
“This is my way of giving back to the community,” he said. “This is ‘my town’ that I grew up in, and it’s a way to show appreciation for how the town has treated me all these years. I also like seeing the joy and smiles of the kids as they participate.”
MacDonald said Roy is perfect in his role.
“Roy (and Linda) have been involved with this parade for almost 20 years and been chairman since 2000,” she explained. “His passion and love for this community is why he started volunteering for the parade. He is a huge asset! He is a super-friendly people person who is engaging, warm, and genuinely cares about each person, each entry, each sponsor, and each theme. He and Linda are Fallbrook through and through! I know that growing up here has given them the passion to continue to give back and they go above and beyond by chairing this event for the entire community to enjoy.”
Of its popularity, dedicated local residents have remarked, in relation to the massive turnout each year for the nostalgic event, “If you’re not in the parade, you are lining Main Street watching the parade.”
MacDonald added, “You know you live in Fallbrook if you’ve been in [the Christmas Parade], been to it, or built something for it! Some of us, like me and the Costellos, have been in the parade, built floats, rode in it as VIPs, and worked behind the scenes.”
The logistics of an event this size, with a large number of moving parts, are many and require months of planning.
Plans begin in earnest each year in the month of August.
Linda said she learned the organizational aspect of the parade in 2007 from former Chamber affiliate Carol Eastman. The tasks are many. “Carol and I worked together on the last parade before she left. I took it a step farther and actually measured the staging area to make placement a lot easier. Since then, I’ve been making changes to make it go smoother as time goes on.”
Logistics are many. “It involves the planning of signage, permits, and maps for so many aspects; for instance, we have maps for where to deposit trash boxes, portable lights, portable restrooms, and traffic control signs from the County,” Linda explained. “We have a detailed map for the street sweepers at the end, maps for the vehicles transporting VIP guests, maps for the bus drivers of the marching bands, etc. Communication is a huge priority. Placement of signage is very important, and carried out by Henry Favela of Ace Party Rentals and his crew. Road closure and detour signs are put in place the day before, and erected shortly before the event. Then they are removed later that night. It’s a lot of real estate because of the staging area (Ammunition), and then the length of Main, and all the side streets and detours necessary.”
For this year’s Christmas Parade, “We have a limit of 100 entries, then we add in the VIPs, so we will have between 110 and 115 entries total,” Linda said. “It’s a good, manageable number, and pretty much what we had last year.”
Work setting up the parade begins at daybreak that Saturday. “In the early morning, tables and chairs are picked up from the Fallbrook Historical Society for distribution at the information booth and in front of Chamber office,” Linda explained. “Rented golf carts then have to be transported to the staging area and the area has to be marked with entry numbers. That takes most of the morning.”
“Right after lunch, we set up the information booth canopy and station in the staging area, bring all 20 banners down (the ones that go in front of VIPs), and gather all the staging materials for the volunteers, such as information sheets, clipboards, safety vests, flashlights, etc.,” she said.
“Between 2 and 3 p.m., we supervise the closing of the streets and help get staging completed,” Linda said. “We then get the VIPs that will be riding in the parade shuttled down to the staging area. At that same time, Lila (MacDonald) and Jackie (Toppin) will be setting up the VIP hospitality area inside and in front of the Chamber.”
As those entries line up in the staging area in the afternoon, variety will be very apparent. MacDonald explained it like this, “[The parade] brings together businesses, non-profits, churches, political organizations, dignitaries, vintage cars, fire, law enforcement, youth organizations, and seniors to celebrate in a small town America sort of way!”
“It will be a good showcase for what Fallbrook is all about,” Linda added. “It shows where our interests lie; it shows a sense of community.”
Organizers, participants, and spectators alike feel the sense of community the annual parade brings.
“To me, it’s remembering the joy of Christmas and the unity it brings that should be year-round,” Roy said.
“When you see the huge crowd that turns out, and how people from all walks of life and all interests enjoy it together in harmony, it’s almost surreal,” Linda added.