October 12th marks Chico’s 24th annual Parade of Lights, an autumn tradition dedicated to the celebration of all things Chico. The event features floats, marching bands, car clubs, and men and women on horseback from area equestrian groups. The parade starts at 7:30 PM, and this year’s theme is “Dancin’ Through the Decades,” an idea that promises to elicit creative ideas from all participants. Each year, the parade seems to grow brighter, with more lights illuminating costumes, floats, and almost anything else from which lights can be hung. Light, of course, is what it’s all about.
Farshad Azad runs Azad’s Martial Arts, and he’s been actively involved with putting on the parade since its inception. He eagerly shared his enthusiasm for the event when I called him for information early in September. His enthusiasm is understandable. He’s served on the parade’s Board of Directors for the past 14 years, and he is the organization’s current president.
“We are very excited to celebrate the 24th annual Chico Parade of Lights,” he told me. “The entries are still coming in, and we have great participation by Chico State, and by various elementary and secondary schools in the area. It’s a great family event, and it’s tons of fun. This is Chico’s version of the Disneyland Parade of Lights.”
People often take for granted how much human time and energy goes into pulling off an event like this, and when I asked Mr. Azad about that, he was lavish in his praise of the many people who lend their efforts to making the event successful.
“A small group of community-minded business people work hard in the spirit of making our community a better place,” he said. “The parade is a great way to promote businesses, organizations, and causes. Last year was our best turnout ever, with more than 15,000 spectators. We’re expecting an even bigger number this year.”
The people behind the event begin their efforts six months in advance, gathering for weekly meetings to attend to the countless details that go into it. “We have 150 volunteers to make the parade safe,” Mr. Azad said. “We have a great working relationship with the City of Chico, the Downtown Business Association, the Chamber of Commerce, the North Valley Community Foundation, and the Chico Police Department. And we get great support from local media. Without all those people and organizations, we couldn’t succeed.”
Judy Sitton is this year’s Grand Marshal and will lead the parade’s beautifully lighted floats as they wend their way from Third and Salem, to Main Street, then to 6th Street where they will loop around to Broadway, and end up at 4th and Salem. Volunteer judges, including the mayor of Chico will be stationed at various points along the parade route, all voting for the best participants in various categories. There will be a pre-parade car show on 5th Street between Main and Broadway starting at 5 PM. The parade begins at 7:30 PM.