Candy Cane Lane returns for 75th parade

Traditional downtown parade celebrates a milestone following a one-year hiatus due to COVID-19

VISALIA – Shortly after World War II the community of Visalia came together to deck the halls of downtown with boughs of holly, strings of lights and a line of festive floats. Now, after the height of another global conflict, this time against a villainous virus, Visalia is ready to celebrate the 75th occurrence of its Candy Cane Lane Parade.

After a one-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the parade will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 29 and is presented by Downtown Visalians, a nonprofit comprised of downtown merchants, property owners and community members. Executive director Steve Nelsen said people were disappointed the parade did not run last year and have aggressively demanded the parade continue, something his staff has worked hard to ensure happens as COVID-19 hospitalizations remain high in Tulare County.

“We want to hold the parade more than anyone but the sheer negativity with which people approached us was a shame,” Nelsen said. “We dealt with it and are moving forward with the parade, but it didn’t have to be that way.”

The 75th incarnation the parade has had a few firsts in its history. This year’s parade will start a half hour earlier, at 6:30 p.m., and is the first time the deadline for entries had to be extended beyond the first week in November. Nelsen said the deadline had to be extended three times before the parade had enough entries to cover the cost of putting it on. By the end of October, the parade only had 30 entries, a far cry from the 90 to 100 it averages each year. Downtown Visalians finally cut off entries last week at 77. Between state mandates, county regulations and school district protocols, it was difficult to ensure the parade met all of the rules for city vehicles, nonprofit floats, and school bands.

“How do you have a parade without school bands?” Nelsen said. “It just wouldn’t be the same, so we wanted to make sure everyone who normally participates would have a chance this year.”

The 75th parade will not be aired on television and will not be streamed live on Facebook. Nelsen said KMPH Fox 26 politely asked for a one-year hiatus from broadcasting the event due to COVID. Fox 26 aired the holiday event in 2019, the last year the parade was held, and ABC 30 televised for more than 10 years before bowing out in 2019. Instead, Momentum Broadcasting, which owns four radio stations (KJUG 106.7, Hitz 104.9, K100 99.7 and My 97.5), will have two on-air personalities announce the parade entries as they make their way down Main.

“I’m hopeful this will put us on the path for normalcy,” Nelsen said. “This, right after the Christmas Tree lighting at Oval Park, is the official start of Christmas time here in Visalia.”

This year’s theme is “Have Your ELF a Merry Little Christmas.” Prizes will be given to judged winners in four categories. Entires deemed the Best Decorations for the Theme and Best Christmas Decorations will each receive $500 while the Best Band and Best Dance Group will each receive a $300 prize. Major sponsors for this year’s parade are Family HealthCare Network, Groppetti Automotive Family and Kaweah Health. This year’s honorary grand marshal will be frontline healthcare workers.

“We are thankful for everything they do for our community, specifically over the past two years! Please join us in honoring them for their dedication to our community,” Downtown Visalians announced on its Facebook page.

Out of respect for retailers and offices, Downtown Visalians asks those planning on attending the parade not to set up chairs until after 4 p.m. when the streets are closed. They also ask you do not rope, tether or chain chairs together along the curbside.

“This is a huge safety issue for motorists and anyone sitting in the chairs,” Nelsen said.

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