Lights On Parade draws hundreds of attendees

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The San Benito Dance Academy performed parts of The Nutcracker at this year's Lights on Parade that took place at the Hollister Municipal Airport on Nov. 28 and 29. (Juan Reyes)

The Hollister Downtown Association put on a grand and brightly lit show for its 30th annual Lights On Parade as hundreds of guests flocked to last weekend’s drive-thru event at the Hollister Municipal Airport, despite having to wait in line on Highway 156 for nearly an hour or longer.   

HDA administrative assistant Jennifer Dias was thrilled to hear the children get excited about all of the stations including a chance to wave hello to both Santa and Mrs. Claus. 

“We aren’t seeing many kids anymore, they’re all stuck at home,” she said. “Hearing them screech about Santa or seeing all of the stuff, all the joy, and their parents being happy. Sure, they just waited in line on the highway but that’s all forgotten once they get in here.”

This year’s parade, “Inside Santa’s Workshop,” featured 33 stations as cars made a loop inside the Hollister Municipal Airport on Nov. 28 and 29. All of the parade floats, vehicles, dancers and decorations were stationary including jumbo inflatables and two snow machines that were a big hit with the guests. 

The Fairview 4-H Club was awarded for overall Best Station. The Yamamoto Hula dance group won Best Use of Lighting, the Girl Scouts of Hollister won Best Use of Theme and the Ha’a Hula dance group won the Best Community Group award. 

The winner for Best of Show for the Deck of Tree went to the Hollister VFW, followed by Shaw’s Appliance Repair in second place and Girl Scout Troop 23403 in third. 

Dias couldn’t have asked for a better event given that they went from having nothing to putting on a last-minute drive-thru parade.

“We’re just really honored how much community support we’ve received,” she said. 

Dias admitted there were a couple of hiccups on the first night but they were able to make some logistical changes that made a huge difference on Sunday. More than 1,000 cars showed up to the event on Saturday night. 

Dias was hoping they’d bring in about 2,000 vehicles and it looked like they would reach that amount as the line of cars kept growing shortly after 6pm on Sunday evening. 

“We knew there was going to be a wait but we’re just trying to do our best to get as many people through as possible,” she said.

Dias mentioned that the biggest heartwarming issue was the fact that the community supported the HDA when they lost all of the donated items for their goodie bags during a series of fires and vandalism incidents that happened in downtown Hollister on Nov. 2.

The original plan was to hand out 500 goodie bags but the community donated enough to make well over 4,000.

“There’s so much negativity that people are putting out there and that might be louder but I think deep down that we are a strong community, a loving community, filled with volunteerism and we’re just blessed to be part of it,” she said.

Lara Lichten, owner and director of the San Benito Dance Academy, said it was great to have so many people come through to watch them put on a show. She heard some families did get stuck in line on the first night and weren’t able to get inside but she was hopeful they’d return the following day.  

“We can do this all week and people would come through, the turnout has been amazing,” she said.

Lichten set up a small stage for her students to perform parts of The Nutcracker. She was blown away by how the HDA managed to put the parade together, which gave the girls a chance to dance in front of a live audience. 

“I think this is great. It’s pulling our whole community together,” she said. “For our dancers who haven’t had the opportunity to get out and perform this year, it’s everything.”

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