As the rain twinkled in the lights Friday night on State Street night, so did the eyes of the parade watchers. The thousands of attendees’ eyes feasted on the floats and participants of the Holiday Parade and saw an hour-and-a-half show of music, dance and laughter.
At the starting end of the parade was a trio of friends who had participated in Downtown Santa Barbara Holiday Parade’s quest for a pair of young artists who can light the tree: a prince and a fairy. These three girls were all fairies Friday night, winning the hearts of onlookers who cooed and awed.
The girls, however, seemed not to notice the attention they were receiving. They were too distracted.
“I’m so excited!” said 7-year-old Lakyn Wood. “This is so much fun!”
Her pal Olivia Oneil, 9, felt the same.
“This is my first year doing this, and I’d like to do it again,” said Olivia.
Kids definitely ruled the night Friday. There were several screams of, “Daddy! It’s Santa! Daddy!” and “Mommy, look! A shark!”
The giant shark floating with the Santa Barbara Film Festival posse caught the eye of 6-year-old Tyler Alulema.
“A shark! Let’s go! Let’s go!” screamed Tyler, bursting with energy that matched the parade.
And go the floats did, down toward the ocean from the Arlington Theatre.
Some floats were simple and sweet. Like the Santa Barbara County fire truck, which garnered more applause than any other floats did. Folks were expressing their gratitude for the firefighters who had been busy last week with the Cave Fire. With the trickle of rain flowing down the truck, the firefighters appeared happy in the rain, wishing everyone well for the holidays.
Firefighters were not the only first responder to be generating positive energy during the parade. The California Highway Patrol and Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office stirred up admiration for their vehicles.
“Merry Christmas, and nice car! Nice car!” yelled a horde of little kids when a sheriff’s deputy drove an impressive speeding vehicle towards the corner of State and Ortega streets.
“Thanks. It’s not mine, but …” the deputy trailed off and came to a stop with a smile.
A few feet ahead of him, a Highway Patrol car had its wing doors up to the sky, resembling two hands about to clasp for a prayer. The winged car had bright lights and a loud siren.
“Can I get a whoo whoo?” asked the driver.
“Whoo whoo,” replied the crowd, which received a response from the car’s siren.
In addition to first responders bonding with the community, several groups showed off their ancestors’ cultures.
A group of Chinelos — costumed dancers popular in Mexico — brought life to the party with their music and dance moves.
“Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!” chanted the Chinelos and the crowd members, who bobbed with the dancers.
The Chinelos were followed by a group of bagpipe players wearing kilts.
When a young boy, no taller than 3 feet, asked his mother why men were wearing knee-length skirts, his mother replied in Spanish, “That is their culture, my son.”
But when a laugh began to emerge out of her son’s mouth, the mother asked, “Did you know that the Scots helped Mexicans in the Mexican-American War?”
She was referring to Saint Patrick’s Battalion, which was formed in the mid 19th century by immigrants and expatriates of European descent — primarily of Irish but also of Germans, Spaniards, French, Swiss, Poles, English and Scots.
When asked this question, the son’s laugh evaporated, replaced by a look of amazement and shame combined into one. He shook his head with enlarged eyes and took another look at the pipers in kilts, but this time, with less confusion and more fascination.