Thousands of Elk Grove residents descended into Old Town Elk Grove for the annual Parade of Lights on Nov. 24. This parade concluded the Elk Grove Dickens Street Faire.

 After days of smoky air, followed by rain, the sky was clear and the crowd was large as parade participants, as well as spectators, demonstrated their Christmas spirit. And, like every year, the parade ended with a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus who helped light the community’s Christmas tree on Elk Grove Boulevard. This year, the parade opened with a tribute to local Camp Fire first responders.

Early in the parade, the 2018 Citizen of the Year, also known as “a honey of a guy” for his Spease Bees business, Elk Grove Planning Commissioner Kevin Spease and wife Angela lit up their yellow bee van, followed closely behind by Elk Grove City Council Member Steve Detrick who got a birthday shout-out.

Impressed by the number of floats from the community, the quality and the amount of work that was done on each one, parade director Lynden King said the Facebook estimate was 24,000 interested in attending.

“There had to be that many at least,” he added. “We had close to 3,000 people actually in the parade.”

Parade co-director Sandi Rizzardi agreed.

 “The crowd is larger than it was last year. A lot of it was due to the weather. When the weather is conducive, more people come out. There are lots of people here,” she said moments before the parade began.

With their instruments lit, music filled the air with performances by local marching bands, including the Pleasant Grove High School Color Guard and the Cosumnes Oaks High School Wolfpack Band, the latter of which won best marching band.

Broken into various categories, other awardees included: best senior organization, the Laguna Lions Club; for commercial: Chick-fil-A; best school went to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School; best church went to Grace Community Church.

In the category “Friends and Family”, the award went to  The Little Red Tractor. The winner in the best junior organization went to IR Academy of Soccer.

Rizzardi said the floats are judged by their attractiveness, adherence to the theme, costumes, and the effective use of lights.

Drawing from a variety of people to judge the floats, she said the judges’ diversity represents different viewpoints when scoring happens.

“I always have some different judges every year, but I try to bring back some of my judges to help out the new ones,” she said. “It’s just a fun event. The main criteria of the parade is that floats have to have lights because it’s the Parade of Lights. (There are some floats) with more lights than you can count, so that’s a good thing.”

Announcers were Lori Wallace and Kristyn Laurence and judges were Brian Laurence, Janet Sweeney, Gina Papini, Tim Jordan, Kyle Hughes, and Rick Vargas.