The upper blocks of Newport buzzed with chaotic energy two hours before “showtime”. Here and there along the avenue groups of people cloistered. Antique cars jockeyed with Woodies for position. The Point Loma High marching band went through their last minute warm-ups. And OB Town Council volunteers wearing blue tee shirts gently prodded various floats and groups into their starting positions. One house on the 4700 block even had a grill going. It was more like a tailgate party than the staging area for a Christmas parade. And then again, it wasn’t just any parade they were getting ready for: it was the OB Christmas Parade.
Macy’s may have their giant animated balloon characters. The Rose Bowl may have their floral floats. And Coronado’s Fourth of July parade may have a lock on patriotic symbolism. But none of them beats the straight-out quirkiness, done with a smile on its face, a song in its heart, a small town feel and room for all comers that the Ocean Beach Christmas Parade has on the first Saturday night in December every year.
In addition to the marching bands, troops of scouts, business-sponsored floats and local luminaries that you might see at these other parades, the event featured some rather unusual participants. Entrants like the OB Geriatric Surf Club, Russell the Electric Giraffe, the We Just Want To Be in The Parade Float, the OB Off-Key Choir and The OB Skateboarders amused and entertained the crowds throughout the evening. And then there were the llamas, camels, sheep and goats, followed by a couple of guys with shovels and a rolling trash can to clean up any messes. And the Dueling Pianos, the disco wonderland, and the Calgary Chapel Christmas Carol Karaoke Boat.
The sidewalks along Newport Avenue were packed by 4:30. Early comers camped out with chairs and blankets to claim the prime viewing spots. And the chill in the air packed local java joints with spectators angling for a hot cuppa joe or hot chocolate to ward off the cold.
The parade was supposed to start at 5:05pm “OB Standard Time”, and it did, sort of. Right about that time a dozen or so choppers roared down the Avenue, adorned with a few Christmas decorations and a lot of smiling bikers. They weren’t really part of the parade, but the crowd enthusiastically cheered them anyhow. The a group of kids whizzed by on skateboards. And then, a mere ten minutes late, the show was under way.
A color guard led the way, followed by a mass of students, parents and teachers from this year’s official “Marshall”: OB Elementary School, celebrating its centennial year in the community.
Then came the politicians, a sort of back-handed tribute to the grass roots political power that the community has wielded in past years in opposing the various schemes that past administrations’ have put forward towards destroying the soul of this beach community. Now, politicians feel obliged to put an appearance at OB events, lest the natives get “restless” again. Mayor Saunders convertible was followed by a black SUV just in case, we guessed, things broke bad.
The crowd lining the parade route was friendly and festive, calling out friends they saw in parade, cheering the various floats, jumping out in the street to take pictures, and even pitching in to help out when necessary, as happened when a woodie needed to be push started in the 4900 block of Newport.
As for the parade itself, well, it was jam packed with saints, sinners, zoomers, noisemakers, causes, creations, musicians, cheerleaders and…. so much more! There were Girl Scouts and Boys Scout, churches and bars, veterans and marching bands, antique cars and no gas scooters. It just went on and on. And on and on. For over two hours. Boy, was it fun! Everybody seemed to be having a great time. My fingers were too cold to keep taking notes after about 90 minutes, so we’ll add a complete list of participants if we can find one.