Christmas comes but once a year, but, if you live in the land of big dreams and magic then Christmas is as big a spectacle as it will ever be. Only in Hollywood could a production like the Hollywood Christmas Parade be pulled off. With Santa Claus making his usual trip to a parade, there really is little more than one could ask for. But, that’s not how they do things in Hollywood. Everything has to be made bigger and better, and in the land where movies are made, nothing could be closer to the truth. Taking place just after Thanksgiving, the Hollywood Christmas Parade is one of those events whose energy reaches new heights and is a perfect fit for the Entertainment Capital of the World.
I don’t think I have to tell you just how amazing this show is. I could save you the trouble of reading this whole article by giving you the a quick round-up of what happened, but, then again, I wouldn’t be able to paint you a picture of just how magical this show is. I should tell you though, about the very first Hollywood Christmas Parade that I had gone to and just how crazy it really was. Two years ago I was contacted by a friend of mine asking me if I could help cover the parade. I had heard of the parade many years ago, but, considering I didn’t really head to Los Angeles very often (I live in Orange County) I had never been. I thought it would be a great opportunity to check out the parade, so, I didn’t really need much convincing of going. But, when I heard the reason they wanted me to cover the show, I just knew that I had to go. Prior to that event I had actually just left military. I spent ten years in the Air Force and during that time I had made many friends and connections. One of those friends is the person that had called me asking me if I could cover the show. One of his friends from our same base runs the program that drives miniature airplanes in the Christmas Parade. Those airplanes, while small are meant take children that are sick or suffering from a medical condition. The Air Force takes these children and lets them experience the Parade and enjoy something from the front seat of a very cool craft. Even if they hadn’t told me that this is what the coverage would be for, I just knew I had to do it. So from that moment on I was committed to the event. Little did I know though, that I would be in for one hell of a ride.
I was really excited for the event in the weeks leading up to it. Usually before a big event I do a lot of prep work just to make sure I am ready to cover it from any angle. I had charged all of my camera batteries, and I had a few memory cards ready to shoot with. I also had spent the night before cleaning all of my lenses and packing my camera bag accordingly. The one thing I didn’t prepare for, is the one thing that affected the entire day that day. The weather. I don’t know whether or not it was the excitement of going behind the scenes of this event, or whether I was just not thinking that the weather could have changed so drastically in one day, but, all I know is that I didn’t prepare for it and I paid the price before, during and after the show. For the first time in the history of the parade, it rained, and the mood of the whole show was affected by it. The one thing that I was concerned about were the children that would be riding in the airplanes during the show. With that type of rain, and the extreme cold that beset Hollywood that night, I was wondering how they would tackle the problem. Thankfully, the organizers, and my new Air Force buddy Peter (the head of that program) took great care of the kids, and with some warm weather gear were able to get the little tykes some much needed comfort. They were able to ride in the planes during the parade, and you could tell by the smiles on their faces that they wouldn’t have it any other way. I, on the other hand, ended up getting completely soaked. I didn’t bring a waterproof jacket or anything to protect me that day, so, I ended up getting drenched. That one show alone got me sick for three days straight. Coming from a person that never gets sick, that was quite an accomplishment.
When I had arrived to the parade it was raining really hard. It was cold and really wet everywhere and the prospects of the rain letting up before the show were slim to none. I was wondering how it would go actually. I had never been to a red carpet event and seeing that the carpet that the celebrities would be walking was soaked, I was a bit concerned. While the hosts for the parade Erik Estrada and Laura Mckenzie were extremely brave and faced the elements (being the two celebrities that were daring enough to walk out on the red carpet regardless of rain), they would be the only two. Not long after they walked the carpet, the entire walk was moved into a parking structure right near by. The celebrities would now be walking along a concrete wall (of course it wasn’t bare, and a backdrop was fastened to it) and a makeshift carpet. For the celebs, it was a welcome change and it provided them with enough room to be able to walk around and for the media to get any pictures or video that they would need. It was really nice to see celebrities such as former Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora (and his beautiful girlfriend Orianthi), boxing legend Oscar DeLa Hoya and the irreplaceable singer and songwriter, Stevie Wonder. The list of celebs was packed, and being in the middle of the excitement was a lot more than I could have hoped for. Seeing the show from the other side of the fence was awesome, and back then we had near free reign of the parade route. Having the freedom to see the marching bands, floats, balloons and the people was awesome. Never before had I seen an event up close like that, and I was super excited to be a part of it. Needless to say, it was exciting, and considering how it all went down, was an amazing event.
While I learned to wear a pretty hefty jacket for the next event, and to always watch the weather before any show, it was the experience of the Christmas Parade that I could never get out of my head. It was so much fun that I was chomping at the bit to go back. But, I would have to wait another two years to go back, and this time it would be under different terms. In the time that I had gone to the parade back in 2014 I had been working on a lifestyle and culture magazine, and had spent those two years setting up the website you see here and all of the other things that come with putting together a magazine. It has been quite a journey and a lot of research and development. In those two years I had gone to numerous events and all over the place, but, all the while I had been thinking about going back to the Christmas Parade. So, when the opportunity came up to head back to this show, I just knew it was going to be on my ‘to do’ list. While I was pretty scared in the few days leading up to the event (there was a slight chance of rain coming back to the show, and a chance for some really unwelcome deja vu), I was anxious to check the show that had left such a positive impression on me. This time though, it would be even more exciting as I wouldn’t be going alone, but with three of our team members. One of which was our beautiful and talented reporter, Daynie R. and the others being videographer and editor Brandon G. and webdriver Brandon (yes, you read that right, there are two Brandon’s on our team). These three people are extremely talented, humble and really fun people to be around, and I knew long before even going to the show that this was going to be a fun time (even with rain or shine).
The 85th Annual Hollywood Christmas Parade was a different experience than the last one I had been to. The day of the parade could not have been more beautiful and I just knew that the day would be perfect. The weather being as it was, invited more people to line the streets of Hollywood Blvd. in anticipation of the big event. The walk from where we parked to the media center was about a half mile or so. In that short walk we saw the amount of people grow and grow, and from far away you could see the Parade balloons being inflated. As we walked closer you could feel the sun setting and the anticipation rising. It was as if all the planets where aligning and unicorns were prancing across the heavens for this show. Could it be that this day would top the last show I had gone to? I certainly hoped so, but, with the threat of rain somewhere in the horizon, the only thing I could do is hope and pray that we would be able to cover the parade. Fortunately, things would end up working out for us, and the show went on without a hitch. Even better was the fact that the organizers had thought of anything that could go wrong, and the red carpet was covered with a tent this time around. It was really nice actually, and with all of the lights on the red carpet (and of course all of the media there) it also happened to be the warmest place to be. This was great and you could tell that the celebs were happy to be there, and especially on the red carpet.
Our experience on the red carpet was just amazing. Every celebrity that showed up looked incredible and considering what we were all there for, the spirits were high. The celebrity appearances at the Christmas Parade are always one of the highlights of the show, and this year (as in every year before), we were treated to a wide array of talent. From headliner and Grand Marshall Olivia Newton-John (who looked absolutely stunning), to actress Keesha Sharp (from the new Lethal Weapon TV series) and legendary comedian Bill Engvall (of the now famous Blue Collar Comedy Tour), the stars were out in full-force. The cast of the Bold and the Beautiful also made an appearance on the red carpet (as well as their very own vehicle in the parade itself) and many other soap stars. Celebrity host and reporter Mark Steines (who formerly hosted Entertainment Tonight and will now take over Bob Eubank’s position to co-host the Tournament of Roses Parade)along with Parade hosts Erik Estrada (with Laura McKenzie) once again showed up to inform the viewers of all of the parade happenings. We were fortunate enough to be able to talk to some of the celebs, such as Louis Gossett Jr., about their illustrious careers and their feelings about being there that day. Louis Gossett Jr. in particular is an actor I have always admired, and getting the chance to chat with them has been an honor that I cannot fully explain. The story behind that is for another time, but, the truth is, that is how we felt being there in the middle of the controlled pandemonium that is the red carpet. With all of the big names there, it was quite a humbling experience to be able to communicate in good cheer. A simple sign of what the holidays are all about of course. Of course, the red carpet could not have been in the Christmas spirit if Ol’ Saint Nick hadn’t shown up, and thankfully we were all treated to one of the most heartwarming and genuine interviews we had ever done. As a big kid myself, I couldn’t help but smile the entire time we were there talking to Santa Claus himself.
Walking outside onto the parade route we were treated to a massive change to what we had seen earlier. While the people were trickling in to see the parade during our walk to the media tent (prior to the event), we were stunned to see how many people had shown up. The streets of Hollywood now ran full of onlookers and they were eager to see the people and floats behind this magical event. While it did end up getting a little chillier as the night wore on, you would never be able to tell that it was affecting anyone. The audience were in good spirits and that was visible by all of the smiling faces. You could hear children yelling and the elderly laughing and people generally having a great time. To think that the parade hadn’t even started and people were excited just to be there. Their level of excitement would never fail or falter once the parade had started, and all the while you could tell that the real reason this parade was taking place (for the people of Hollywood and for the visitors that had made the trip there, both foreign and domestic) people were happy to be there regardless of how cold it was. If you had never been to the Christmas Parade, it’s hard to describe just how big it is. Hollywood Blvd is pretty crammed with stuff normally, but, throw in a couple thousand visitors, vendors and a parade to boot, and you have the makings a very large, but intimate spectacle.
My friends at the Air Force once again made an appearance, and this time, like the last, they had their miniature jets (and P-51 Mustang) for a few lucky kids to ride in. There were also numerous balloons of famous cartoon characters and icons of the entertainment industry. Gumby, one of the most iconic television characters of all time (and set to star in his own upcoming television series), was there in both normal size and the jumbo balloon size. Some iconic Star Wars cosplayers also strolled down Hollywood Blvd. to highlight their devotion to the epic science fiction series. That series too, is set have an upcoming movie this week, and if you are reading this after December 16th, in North America, that movie, titled Rogue One, will be out in theaters already. One of the biggest surprises to me was seeing a balloon of the character Pac-Man. Pac-Man is one of the biggest names in video games, as well as one of the originals. I didn’t expect to see Pac-Man at this event, and as an avid gamer, this was a very welcome addition to the line-up. On top of all those characters the celebs that we had seen on the red carpet also made the trip down the pathway. Most notable were the cast of the Bold and the Beautiful as well as the Grand Marshal, actor Robery Wagner, Mickey Mouse, several Hollywood City Council Members and many other high profile names. Santa Claus is the final celebrity in the parade, so, if you are going to the parade next year, or anytime after that, just know that he is at the very end. Appearing in a majestic float with all of his reindeer, Santa spreads good cheer and manages to lift the spirits of all of the kids along the route. I know we were as happy to see him and his float as much as any other person there. A fitting end to a joyous and festive evening.
Bands from around the country play their hearts out as they walk the parade route, and you can hear the music reverberate through the stands. This is their one moment to shine (at least for some of them, in this part of the country) and you see the pride in their faces and in their step as they make their hometowns proud. For some, the trip was an even larger one, and some parade attendees had come from as far away as mainland Asia and beyond. A normal scene in Los Angeles, which is accustomed to pooling talent from across the globe, this attraction of performers from outside our hemisphere proved to us that Hollywood is indeed the entertainment capital of the world. Nothing cements that proposition as much as the event we witnessed there that night. While the parade would go on for roughly two hours, the lasting impression on us and the children there to see some of their favorite cartoon characters and new friends, would be forever. This parade may seem like just another parade to those that had not been there to see it happen. But, for those of us fortunate enough to be a part of it, it was an experience unlike any other. If these images don’t convince you of the magic that occurred that night, perhaps the broadcast of the parade (check your local listings for dates and times) will let you experience the beautiful collision of Hollywood and Christmas together. The 85th Annual Hollywood Christmas Parade is something that anyone can and should check out at some point in their life. We know, we’ll be there next year, but, maybe with a cup of hot cocoa or two in hand. Merry Christmas everyone!
Words and Photos By Daniel Navarrete
For more information on the Hollywood Christmas Parade and showtimes check out their website at http://thehollywoodchristmasparade.org/
This article was prepared or accomplished by Daniel Navarrete in his personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Spektrum Magazine, or its affiliates.