Where to catch light parades in the Sacramento region

Light parades brighten winter nights in the Sacramento region, and more cities are adding them, including Rancho Cordova for the first time this year. Four parades are set for the Sacramento region Dec. 2 and Dec. 3. 2017.
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Light parades brighten winter nights in the Sacramento region, and more cities are adding them, including Rancho Cordova for the first time this year. Four parades are set for the Sacramento region Dec. 2 and Dec. 3. 2017.


Love parades? Holiday lights? You’re in luck this weekend

By Ed Fletcher


December 01, 2017 01:00 PM

It’s crunch time for the amateur artisans behind the 100-plus floats that will light up the night at four illuminated holiday parades this weekend in the Sacramento region.

The first-year Rancho Cordova Holiday Light Parade on Sunday joins the ranks of established processions Saturday night: Sacramento’s Lighted Boat Parade, Auburn’s Festival of Lights Parade and Galt’s Lighting of the Night Parade.

The Auburn event may be the region’s largest, with 10,000 people expected.

“It’s probably one of the best small town parades going,” said Keith Nesbitt, executive director of the Auburn Chamber of Commerce and former Auburn mayor.

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Festive lighting is an element of Christian, Jewish and pagan holiday traditions. Some of the decorated boats, trucks, scooters and all-terrain vehicles will be distinctly in the Christmas spirit, while others will be agnostic.

Two local light parades have already taken place as a precursor to tree-lighting ceremonies. Elk Grove had its Holiday Parade of Lights last weekend in association with the Dickens Street Faire. Davis had its own twist Thursday with a Bike Light Parade and candlelight parade that started at the Davis Food Co-op and ended at the downtown tree lighting event.

Here’s a closer look at the four light parades in the region this weekend:

Capital City Yacht Club’s Lighted Boat Parade

Location: Sacramento River between Miller Park and the Virgin Sturgeon

When: Saturday, 6 to 7 p.m.

What you’ll see: Some 40 boats will be decorated for the 25th year of this event. Boats will motor from Miller Park in Sacramento to the Virgin Sturgeon upriver and back. The best viewing will be from the Tower Bridge, docks of Old Sacramento, aboard the Delta King Hotel or at the Virgin Sturgeon.

“This year is expected to be the biggest one that has ever been held,” said Simon Antill, vice commodore of the Sacramento Yacht Club, whose members participate. “People really get into it. It’s basically a floating parade.”

Participating boats will range in size from 70-foot luxury yachts to 20-foot cruisers, and most will be decorated from bow to stern.

The procession will be timed to follow the 6 p.m. Macy’s Theater of Lights in Old Sacramento.

Auburn’s Festival of Lights Parade

Location: Downtown Auburn, starting on Borland Avenue, heading down High Street and culminating at the Gold Country Fairgrounds.

When: Saturday, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

What you’ll see: Some 10,000 people are expected to fill the streets as 110 floats and participating groups will make their way through this picturesque small foothills town before joining the ticketed ($5) light show at the fairgrounds.

This parade is somewhere around 25 years old, but “nobody really remembers,” said Steve Galyardt, the event’s longtime organizer.

What they do know is that they have a good thing going.

“This parade is Americana,” Galyardt said. “It’s not Mayberry, but it’s darn close.”

He said an influx of art cars from the Burning Man festival that shoot fire have added to an already eclectic mix that has families setting out chairs as early as 10 a.m. to get a prime viewing spot. New this year: at the end of the free parade, the float will drive into Gold Country Fairgrounds to participate in the ticketed light show event.

Rancho Cordova Holiday Light Parade

Location: Rancho Cordova, circular route runs down International Drive between Kilgore Road and Merrick Way.

When: Sunday, starts at 6 p.m.

What you’ll see: Nearly 30 floats – several heavy on technical wizardry – will travel down and back International Drive in this first-year parade.

After getting his feet wet as a participant in the Auburn parade, animatronics expert Jerry Jewell set out to bring a light parade to his hometown of Rancho Cordova. Jewell set out to persuade the city’s chamber of commerce and elected leaders to get on board. City Manager Cyrus Abhar said the city was happy to tap its community enhancement fund for roughly $7,000 to pay for road closures and traffic control.

“We as a city place a great deal of value on arts and culture,” Abhar said.

In addition to getting the city engaged, Jewell helped build the LED lighting systems for several of the floats: two moving Christmas trees and an LED globe similar to the one used in the Sacramento New Year’s 2009 ball drop, which only occurred one year.

Jewell, who has dabbled in LED light shows for some time, said he wants to innovate parades. The ball float will feature two LED light panels that will display sponsor’s names. The parade will be a loop, rather than a line, giving spectators more to see and music synced between all of the participating vehicles.

Jewell said changes in LED technology have made it easier to create dazzling displays.

“The lights available are cheap and plentiful,” Jewell said.

Galt’s Lighting of the Night

Location: Galt, on Civic Drive before winding 1.2 miles down C Street, then down E Street.

When: Saturday, starts at 6:30 p.m.

What you’ll see: The folksy, small-town parade will include everything from large trucks to Girl Scout troops and packs of horses.

The event starts at Galt’s council chambers, 380 Civic Dr., offering photos with Santa, musical performances and a Christmas Tree lighting. More than 45 participants are expected to be illuminated for the parade.

Ed Fletcher: 916-321-1269, @NewsFletch