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Retired engineer uses skills to create parade magic
Fantazia pic
Richard Fantazia (right) and Paul Howard attach a wheel on the Fantazia Dance Productions Christmas Parade float. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER / The Journal

This year’s Turlock Downtown Christmas Parade theme is right up Richard Fantazia’s alley. You see, Fantazia is a miracle worker. He takes abstract ideas and makes them into moving, lighted, bigger-than-life parade floats.

“I’ve always been able to think up ideas and how to build things,” he said. “It’s just my nature.”

The retired engineer, contractor and public works inspector for the City of Stockton has been building parade floats for his daughter Reneé Fantazia’s dance studio every year since the beginning of the downtown Christmas Parade — except for last year because of the economy.

“I really got excited after the first parade, after seeing the kids,” he said. “Their eyes got so wide.”

For two weeks before the parade every year Fantazia’s driveway is transformed into a makeshift workshop. All of his creations have moving parts and they’re always big enough to allow at least a few of the dance studio students to ride on.

This year Fantazia’s creation was named “The Miracle Main Street Train.” He started with a 1998 Chevy S10 pick-up and then built a wooden frame around the truck that was at least three feet taller than the vehicle’s roof. The frame was painted Christmas red and decked out with lights, as was the 16-foot trailer the truck was pulling.

While the faux classic train grille gave authenticity to the float, the coup de grace was the hydraulic-powered wheels attached to the sides of the float. The wheels moved in choo-choo train style all the way down Main Street.

The miracle train was not Fantazia’s most elaborate float. One year he created a float that featured a kettle of “wax” that was continually lifted by a boon onto a “burning” candle, causing it to rise. The float took first place in the parade that year.

Fantazia is no stranger to awards. Over the years his floats have taken quite a few second places and one third place. But he doesn’t do it for the accolades. Fantazia said it’s all for the kids.

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.