SOLEDAD — Soledad Chamber of Commerce will host the Soledad 35th Annual Christmas Celebration tonight in the form of a drive-thru light parade.
Beginning at 5 p.m., vehicles with lights will travel through town to bring in the festive mood on a Saturday evening. The Dec. 5 celebration will take place nearly two weeks before the town’s second parade on Dec. 18, which will be hosted by the online group Front Street.
Tonight’s parade will begin on West Street to Gabilan Drive, going to Orchard Lane, Metz Road, North Street, then to Main Street before the parade ends at city hall courtyard. There, Santa Claus and his helpers will be present to greet children and hand out Christmas treats. Attendees are asked to wear masks.
“It’s very important for Soledad to have a Christmas parade and festivities for our local businesses, residents and visitors,” said Andria Jones, chamber president. “Besides promoting the importance of shopping local first and bringing residents and visitors to Front Street, holding an annual Christmas parade/festivities provides a chance for local groups to showcase their talents, allow businesses to advertise, provide a space for nonprofits and groups to fundraise and for visitors and residents to share in the holiday spirit.”
The chamber has hosted the annual celebration event for 34 years, and Covid-19 has meant some adjustments to ensure public safety during a large gathering.
“We have had to completely restructure not only the way we hold this event, but how businesses and residents participate,” Jones said. “This is why the parade is drive-thru this year, and not a stationary event where people come, eat, play and watch the parade and festivities.”
She said the chamber would follow safety guidelines explicitly.
“This year we are not able to have any food booths that are reserved for nonprofit groups,” Jones said. “We did not hold our annual Snow King and Queen pageant because we did not want any parent or child to be potentially exposed or expose others.”
The parade route itself was also affected. The chamber extended the route from a half mile to three miles.
“This extended route will help to allow for space for viewers to park and watch inside their vehicles or in the back of their trucks while maintaining social distancing guidelines,” Jones said. “All parade participants are supposed to stay inside their vehicle or on their floats wearing masks.”
In addition to wearing masks, parade viewers are asked to maintain social distancing and stay with their household members only.
Parade entries can register even up to the time of the parade on Dec. 5, Jones explained. All cars, trucks and floats must be decorated in order to be in the parade.
The Dec. 18 Front Street parade is also looking for vehicles, with no pre-registration required. The group is currently hosting a toy drive ongoing through Dec. 15, where people can drop off new and unwrapped toys at F&M Auto Repair to be distributed later in the month to children in need.