Photo Credit: Javier Martinez

Community tree lightings, Christmas parades and visits to see Santa Claus have all begun. Celebrations were held throughout the San Fernando Valley last weekend and many more events are just around the corner and are ready-to-go.

Although many of these events returned last year, they appeared to be larger and were presented in nearly full force this year having only slight shades of pandemic after-effects.

At the 39th Granada Hills Christmas parade on Sunday, a sea of umbrellas held by spectators lined the sidewalks along Chatsworth and Balboa, but the rain didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits at the “largest holiday parade in the valley.”

This year, the parade organizers started a new tradition, Mrs. Santa Claus rode in an antique fire truck to “kick off” the holiday parade.

Charros sat proudly on their prancing horses, classic cars traveled down the parade route and the local Cub and Girl Scouts waved from their floats. There were an impressive 101 entries this year to celebrate their “Home for the Holidays” theme and much praise for Tom Williams, who rode in a red convertible in much deserved style.

Williams has been a parade volunteer for the last 50 years before the parade in its current form even began. During the days when the valley was filled with orange groves in the 1940’s, the community of Granada Hills held an “Orange Blossom Parade” with an Orange Blossom Festival. And in 1973, the Granada Hills Girl Scouts organized the first “Youth In Action Parade,” before the current parade officially began in 1984.

This year’s parade was full of enthusiasm. Parents snapped photos of their sons and daughters as youth bands, cheerleaders and drum squads passed them by. As always, Santa himself was the last parade entry and received the biggest applause as he waved to all the children.

City of San Fernando Holds Tree Lighting

In the City of San Fernando, the countdown ceremony to light up the city’s Christmas tree was a success at last, ending a tradition of annual glitches, snickers and mishaps. City workers were at the ready and made sure to “check it twice.” Last year, the power cord just wasn’t plugged in and the city’s modest Charlie Brown tree, with its own complicated history, has needed bracing. The tree is taking a slow hold and despite predictions — it’s still alive and is slowly growing.

Photo/Frank Andrde

Most residents were oblivious to those challenges and enjoyed strolling through the small town’s historic outdoor mall. The city administrators last year moved the event to the outdoor mall location to highlight local businesses, many who kept their doors open and set up booths during the event. For the Herrera family, they are regulars at the mall’s outdoor market where the city’s tree lighting has been simultaneously held over the last two years. 

Photo/ Javier Martinez

“The outdoor market is our monthly daddy-daughter date where we get to pick one of the restaurants or food trucks and eat dinner,” said Raul Herrera. His two daughters, 4-year-old Cuauhxicalli and 7-year-old Xochipili, both wore holiday outfits and big smiles. 

SFVS Staff

“We particularly enjoy this event in December, where we can take our picture with Santa. We often get together with other single parents and take our children to enjoy the fun activities, listen to the live music, watch all the performances, and take lots of pictures, so that we can create new memories as a family,” said Herrera.  

Mariachi Tesoros, young musicians, the dancers in Ballet Folklorico Ollin, the young men walking on tall stilts with other local talent provided their annual gift of entertainment while Santa stationed himself in front of the old JC Penney building to greet the kids.

More Free Holiday Events are Held this Weekend

While it doesn’t snow in Sylmar, kids will be able to slide down mounds of snow that will be brought in during the Winter Wonderland and Mega Show this Sat., Dec. 10, at El Cariso Park, 13100 Hubbard St., Sylmar from 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. For some local kids, it is the first time they have ever played in snow. A community favorite, this event will include toys, crafts and lots of  family fun. It’s recommended that you arrive early.

“Resiliency and Strength,” is the theme for the 55th Annual Pacoima Holiday Parade, which will resume this year following its shut down due to the pandemic. “We’ve been trying really hard to bring this parade back and that’s why we have this theme. We’re the longest running parade in the valley and directly a community event,” said Eddie Gonzalez, president of the Pacoima Chamber of Commerce. “We were on our way to building it, when the pandemic hit. Now, we are resuming and will work with the tools we have now with the parade and chamber.” 

The parade this year with 80 entries will include a lineup of local notables including actor Danny Trejo, the lead singer for Santana Andy Vargas, drummer Sal Rodriguez of WAR, city Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez and Assemblywoman Luz Rivas. Roberto Barragan is the Grand Marshal. Marching bands from San Fernando High, Cesar Chavez Learning Academy and other surrounding schools will participate. There will be equestrians from Sylmar and Lake View Terrace along with several car clubs including the True Memories, Pacheco, Bomblife and C10. The parade will start at Pacoima City Hall, 13520 Van Nuys Blvd., Pacoima on Sat., Dec. 10, at 9 a.m. – 11 a.m.

Enjoy the Holiday Season but be Aware of the Winter Surge

Holiday events during the first weeks of December haven’t been impacted by COVID-19 mandates, but another COVID-19 surge is building. The county is currently recommending people wear masks indoors, although it is not currently a mandate. 

LA County has already moved into the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “medium” virus activity level, after weeks in the “low” category. The county could move into the “high” category as early as this week, if the weekly rate of new infections reaches 200 per 100,000 residents, the county will issue indoor mask mandates.

“In some ways this surge is likely to be different — we know more about COVID, have tools to help mitigate severe outcomes and we are more aware of symptoms and when to take action,” County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “On the flip side, this will be the first winter where we are facing rising levels of COVID, with emerging new strains we know less about, along with unusually high flu and RSV [respiratory syncytial virus] activity.”