For the first time in more than 15 years, Dan Casale, Sr. will not be part of the Downtown Turlock Christmas Parade on Friday, however, his 1950 Farmall M tractor will be.
Casale passed away in October, but his family will be continuing the longtime tradition of lighting up his beloved antique tractor with Christmas lights for the enjoyment of parade goers.
“He always was civic minded about preserving the old antique tractors and how they’re still very useful,” said his widow, Lois Casale. “The last thing he wanted to do was drive again this year.”
In memory of Casale, his son will be towing the iconic 1950 Farmall M with no one in the driver’s seat.
Other members of the Casale Family and Friends Tractor Group will also be in the parade and a trailer will pull Casale’s grandchildren and great grandchildren, along with Lois.
The antique tractor group is just one of 89 entries that will be in the 44th annual Turlock Downtown Christmas Parade.
This annual parade started out as a Saturday morning event but then switched to the first Friday in December — one week after the Festival of Lights Christmas tree lighting — giving downtown Turlock two nights of lights.
The more lights the better is the motto of the City of Turlock when it comes to parade entries. In fact, every member of a walking entry must wear a minimum of one strand of 20 lights. Floats and big rigs have a 3,000 light minimum; small trucks and trailer and antique trucks and vehicles have a 1,500 light minimum; equestrian-drawn carriages have a 600 light minimum and all horses have a 75 light minimum; and regular vehicles have a 300 light minimum.
“What we tell the entries that are participating is the people that are coming out to watch the parade want to show and so we really encourage people to really light up their entry because it is a nighttime lighted parade and those that maybe just do the bare minimum, unfortunately, are overshadowed by those that are maybe in front of or behind that entry because those others may have a lot of lights on them,” said Karen Packwood, deputy director of the City’s Public Works Department.
Packwood has been involved in the annual Turlock Christmas parade for 29 years and in charge of the event for 15 years. Over the years, she’s seen a lot of different entries including a live camel, a pirate ship and even a TIE Fighter from “Star Wars.”
Marissa Mellow, who has taken over coordinating the parade this year for the City, said she started working on plans for the event in August. But both Mellow and Packwood said interest in the parade starts in January for the following December.
“I definitely believe that the parade has gained in popularity through the years. We have so many entries that participate with us year after year. A lot of people from surrounding communities come to watch our parade. The parade used to just be very popular in the main corridor of downtown from about Palm to Broadway, and now the entire stretch of Main Street and the entire stretch of Broadway are lined with people,” said Packwood.
The parade is a community effort with over 50 City staff members working on closing roads and preparing entries, support from event sponsor Turlock Firefighters #2434 and other volunteers make sure the event goes off without a hitch for the thousands of visitors to the downtown area.
“It's wild. It's amazing. It's beautiful. It has everything wrapped into one. When we go down there at 1 p.m. on Friday to start setting up the stage for the judges and the announcer and our sponsors and the firefighters we have sitting down there, we actually see people sitting down on Main Street saving their spaces for the parade and visiting the local shops that are open. So it's really a great thing to see everyone coming out and supporting this annual tradition,” said Packwood.
Streets along the staging and parade route will closed to traffic starting at 1 p.m. on Friday. The parade, which starts at Canal and Main Street, travels west along Main Street and then turns north on Broadway to the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds, will start at 6:30 p.m. Those who do not wish to battle the holiday event traffic can take advantage of extended hours on Turlock Transit. Cit buses will continue to provide free, fixed route service (Route 4) all day between the Transit Center and the bus stop at E. Canal Drive and Main Street, near the start of the parade. Since special event road closures won't allow for the bus to complete its normal route, it will deviate along Main Street and return to the regular route at Colorado Avenue.
Transit staff has coordinated with City event and police personnel to ensure priority transit access near the parade. Buses will operate every 30-35 minutes. Service will be extended an extra hour and will end at 10 p.m. on Friday. The last bus will depart this bus stop at 9:10 p.m.
Many downtown shops will remain open during the parade and additional food vendors will be set up in the downtown area. There will also be multiple portable restrooms located along the parade route. For more information about the parade, visit cityofturlock.org.