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Christmas parade takes Turlock through the decades
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Parade Grand Marshall Abe Rojas waves to the crowd from his 70s dance party-themed float (ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal).

Thousands of spectators lined up along Turlock’s Main Street on Friday night to catch a glimpse of the 40th annual Downtown Christmas Parade, which took the community back in time with floats featuring some of their favorite moments from the 1970s, ‘80s, ‘90s and the present day.

This year’s parade welcomed floats featuring disco divas, classic cartoons, funky disc jockeys and classic cars in an event that saw over 20,000 visitors to Turlock’s downtown “Rolling Through the Decades” — the theme of the annual Christmas celebration.

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Kids bust a move on a float depicting a '90s dance party (ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal).

The City of Turlock’s Parks, Arts and Recreation Commission Chair Brent Bohlender served as a judge in the float contest for the second time this year, and has enjoyed watching the parade grow into the Valley-wide spectacle that it has become known as today, with visitors from surrounding communities making their way downtown to watch the show. When judging the floats on Friday, Bohlender looked for one thing, he said.

“Enthusiasm. And creativity, or the fact that they put together something that follows the theme, but mostly enthusiasm,” Bohlender said. “I want to see, are they excited for it? Or are they just going through the motions.”

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The Pitman High Marching Pride entertain the crowds along Main Street (ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal).

Now in its 40th year, the Downtown Christmas Parade was started in 1978 by Sharon Silva and Abe Rojas, who served as the Grand Marshalls for the parade. As a longtime resident of Turlock, Bohlender said the event’s growth — and the success of Turlock’s downtown — since the late 1970s has been thrilling to see.

“There’s just so many more people now,” he said. “It’s all packed — people have their chairs out here hours before. People are coming downtown now and it’s a destination for the whole Valley.”

While many parade spectators placed their fold-up chairs and blankets along the curbs of Main Street as early as 8 a.m. on Friday, first-time parade goers Amy and Trevor Sticker didn’t have to thanks to Century 21 M & M, where Amy works. The business, along with others on Main Street, placed chairs on the street for their employees to enjoy a front row seat during the parade.

Seated with their children, Amy and Trevor reveled in the lights, music and ambiance of the event.

“We heard that it’s really loud and fun for the kids,” Amy said. “It could become a family tradition, and it’s really giving us a feel of Main Street downtown.”

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Wakefield Elementary School students say hello to the parade viewers from their float, Wakefield Workshop (ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal).

Turlock resident Jan Murphy has been coming to the parade for nearly a decade, she said, and this year was excited to watch her child perform in the Pitman High School Marching Pride.

“It’s so festive, just look at everybody! Everyone gets along and is happy…it reminds me of that small town feeling I had when I was a kid,” Murphy said.

Not much has change for the parade in the last nine years, she added — except for its size.

“It’s gotten so much bigger,” she said. “The whole town comes out every year. It’s a great tradition.”

As always, the feel-good festivities included some friendly competition. A record-breaking number of floats were entered into the parade this year, but only a select few took home the top honors.

The 2018 Christmas Parade Winners are:

·         Unique Division – The Rock Church of Turlock

·         1970s – Chatom 4-H

·         1980s – Wakefield Elementary Wildcats

·         1990s – Garton Tractor

·         2000s – Harvest Haulers

·         Best Overall Use of Lights – Wakefield Elementary Wildcats