A Christmas Parade - December 10th 5pm | Downtown Napa
By Craig Smith
When the Downtown Napa Association took over organizing and running the Napa Christmas parade in 1997, we were told it was to be the 37th Annual Parade. No one questioned that, and we just kept adding another year to the registration form. We now claim to be hosting the 58th annual parade this year.
“Does that mean Napa didn’t have a Christmas parade before 1964?” asked Bill LaLiberte, upon joining the DNA management team. “That just doesn’t seem likely.”
Turns out, it isn’t.
According to Sheli Smith of the Napa Historical Society, the parade was cancelled in 1963 because of the Kennedy assassination. “However, it took place again in 1964 and by 1987 was called the Santa Claus parade. In 1993 the paper reported the 30th annual Christmas parade, another change in names. In 1994 it jumped to the 32nd annual Christmas Parade. Apparently no one like the number 31,” said Smith.
If that logic followed, this would be the 2nd annual Christmas parade, since 2020 was a COVID-cancellation. But that’s getting a little silly.
More importantly, for the first time in at least thirty years, the parade will NOT take place the Saturday after Thanksgiving, but will instead begin at 5 PM on December 10th. The reason for the change is two-fold, but primarily has to do with safety. “Since we made it a nighttime parade seventeen years ago, a lot more people attend,” said Connie Anderson, president of the Downtown Napa Association, which has been organizing the parade for twenty-six years. “The City provides the volunteers necessary to make the event a safe one, and as the parade gets bigger, so do the volunteer needs. Finding enough people on Thanksgiving weekend has gotten to be too much.”
The “important” parade elements won’t change. Cash awards of $500 each will be given to the parade judges’ choices in three categories: Best Use of Lights, Best Theme-Oriented, and Best Use of Music. “A lot of Napa non-profits have benefited from these awards over the years,” said Allison Hallum, GM at Eiko’s, Napa Noodle and Eiko’s at Oxbow and the past president of the Downtown Napa Association. Count on both the Napa High and Vintage bands to march. Santa has also been asked to join the fun.
Anyone can enter the parade, and it’s free. Whether you choose to build an elaborate float, simply march along with your group, or just watch, the Napa Christmas parade is a hometown tradition that has grown over the years.
The parade begins on Second Street at School, heads east on Second to Brown, then north to Third, and finally west back to School Street. Judging takes place on Third Street in front of the courthouse, across from the Second Street garage. All groups are recognized and introduced at the stage.
Old Saint Nick will set up shop in the Napa Valley Welcome Center at 1300 First St, Suite 313, near the intersection of First and Randolph, as soon as he wraps up the Christmas parade, probably about 6:30. He’ll bring a staff of Elves from Vintage High who will pass out candy canes, and the Welcome Center will have plenty of hot chocolate on hand for everyone. All the little ones have to do is bring their wish list and tell Santa what they want.
The Grand Marshal this year is former Mayor Jill Techel. It is an honor to be able to have her lead the parade and represent Napa.
Last but not least, some of the photos supporting this article are courtesy of Sofia Oliveira. Sofia is a student at Vintage High School and is in the Multi Media Production program, taught by JP Castillo. The students will be taking photos and videos at this year’s parade, all of which you’ll see in 2023.
Entry in the parade is free. Parade applications and information about it can be found at DoNapa.com or by calling 257-0322.