Back in 1979, local businessman Tom Rose thought up the idea of having a local, authentic midwestern style Christmas Parade to bring people to Main Street to shop. He determined along with a few others, that the best day to do it would be the first Friday in December, to catch all the holiday shoppers—not to close to Thanksgiving, but right there in the peak shopping season.
The first parade was loosely organized with mostly civic groups, businesses, and school children as participants. It was a pretty casual affair without a lot of permitting or lots of paperwork. Twenty-three entries marched up and down Main Street a couple of times starting and ending at the pier. In the early years, the McGaugh School Marching Band was the only musical entertainment. Just think of that for a moment—maybe 200 participants, a few small groups and indeed no floats, just marched up and down the same three blocks to celebrate the “Season of Giving.” You can almost see this civil, kind, idyllic world as presented in this Norman Rockwell Postage Stamp issued as “Freedom to Worship.” For indeed, like Norman Rockwell and some of our greatest writers, teachers, and thinkers, now more than ever, we should all respect one another and focus on civility.
The next year Realtor Jim Klisanin was asked to “help” with the parade and ended up chairing the event for the next 22 years. Jim still is in many ways the Chairman Emeritus of the Parade and has been known to throw the very best party in town, right at his own office at 321 Main Street—Baytown Realty. I remembered in 2006, when we first moved here, a ticket to Jim Klisanin’s Christmas party meant you were “somebody” in town. Jim is once again ringing in the holidays with his signature event and also his beloved Steelers.
Another spectacular tradition was started with the first Grand Marshal in 1981, George “Babe” Sidon, who was a favorite cobbler on Main Street. Grand Marshals from all walks of life have led the parade ever since. Many of the people who are well-known contributors of the town have been honored to be the Grand Marshal of the Christmas Parade. They come from all walks of life—business, ministry, non-profit work, government service, large corporations and all local in that they live, work or serve in Seal Beach. Recently we had Greg and Gina Phillips, Laura Ellsworth, Steve Meyer, Dee Carey, Steve Masoner, Brian Kyle, Pastor Don Shoemaker, Bill Ayres, Jim Klisanin, Emily Frasier, Bob Eagle, Pat McCormick, Joanne Yeo, Judy Smith, Jim and Judy Watson, Stan Anderson, Barbara Blackmun and Barbara Wright, George Willis and many more. Junior Grand Marshals were started in 2004, and our first one was Paul Cabral, a proud Lion to this day.
Of course, the star attraction of any Christmas Parade is the appearance of Santa Claus who has made a grand appearance at every parade. Men like Tom Rose, Mike Leonard, Doug Hoxeng, Bob Eagle and now the current officeholder have all donned the red suit to usher in the holidays atop the city’s 1929 American LaFrance Fire Engine. The parade would never happen without the leadership of the dedicated men and women with the drive and spirit to produce the parade each year. The first Chairman, Tom Rose, was also Santa in 1979. Tom was followed by Jim Klisanin, Ann Tuler, Virginia Kling and Scott Newton. Without question, Jim Klisanin who chaired the event for 22 years was the driving force for keeping the parade spirit alive and setting the course for what it is today. Scott Newton has headed this vast community project and been Chairman since 2004.
In the early years, there were 25-35 entries each year, and it slowly rose annually until 2010, there were more than 100 entries and 3,000+ participants. Due merely to space and time constraints, the parade has been limited to around 110 entries each year. Since I began co-chairing the show in 2010, the event keeps getting better, and not necessarily more significant in the volume of people in the parade. We do actually have more people in the show for .33 miles than the Rose Parade in Pasadena.
Participants and entries vary widely, but most come from Seal Beach and the communities that serve the Los Alamitos School District. Two-thirds of the participants are kids from sports programs, scouting, YMCA, youth groups and local churches. The kids in the parade are the real “celebrities” of the Seal Beach Christmas Parade.
The parade was first sponsored by the Seal Beach Business Association with support from the city of Seal Beach. Soon after the Lions joined in to manage parade logistics and when the Business Association merged with the Chamber, it became a Chamber-Lions–city run event for nearly 20 years. In 2013, the Seal Beach Lions Club became the parade producer with support from the City of Seal Beach and generous sponsors. More than 200 Lions, Leos, and other volunteers manage staging, line-up, security and parade route marshaling to help make this a fun, safe and festive holiday event. This year, our title sponsor is the Original Parts Group, Inc. along with our official media partner and official guidebook sponsor Orange County Neighborhood News. They are joined by many more including the always dynamic and amusing Fresh Cut Creative.
So, with all this in mind, you will want to mark your calendar today for the 40th Annual Ruby Red Christmas Parade on Dec. 7, starting with a ribbon cutting and Seal Beach Police Department launch at 7 p.m. sharp, running from the Pier and turning right onto PCH until finally terminating at 10th Street, one-third of a mile where you may let your holiday spirit rise in harmony with thousands of others who are just glad to be here, on this night, together.
Seth Eaker is the immediate past president and marketing coordinator for the Seal Beach Lions Club. He has served as co-chairman, head MC and public relations director of the Seal Beach Christmas Parade since 2010. His biggest concern right now is getting the right “Ruby Red” outfit for the parade.