What a parade!
Riding in the Pleasanton Weekly convertible in last Saturday night's Christmas parade, I had a different perspective on this annual event that now is in its 40th year. Sitting with Gina Channell-Allen, this newspaper's publisher and president, we were among the record-high number of 2,600 people who walked, rode and marched in the parade along Main Street. We saw many of the 25,000 who were shoulder-to-shoulder all along the parade route, cheering, waving and tooting horns. Some wore Christmas hats; many wore colorful holiday clothing as they watched the more than 90 entries (our car was No. 48). The drawback for us is that as the parade passed by, we were in the middle, but we never saw the parade ourselves.
As we moved south on Main Street, I had a chance to tip my Christmas hat to Brian Dutchover, who has volunteered hundreds of hours as the parade chairman for the last 18 years. Dutchover, who with his father Al owns and operates Dutchover & Associates, a landscape architecture firm in Pleasanton, assumed the duties of putting on the annual parade in 1994 with the late Ed Kinney. Al Dutchover, by the way, was the city's landscape architect until Prop. 13 caused the city to drop the position and Al started his own business.
Each year, Brian Dutchover assembles a team of specialists, all volunteers, to take charge of every aspect of the event. They'll have a wrap-up meeting next week to review this year's event and then take a breather until next July, when they start planning the 2012 parade.
When Dutchover took charge, the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce had turned over its parade responsibilities to the new Pleasanton Downtown Association (PDA). At that time, the parade was held on a Thursday evening with the city-sponsored tree-lighting ceremony following. At Dutchover's recommendation, the running of the two separate events was combined and the parade and tree-lighting were moved to Saturday to accommodate a growing number of commuters who had trouble coming back home in time for the parade on a weeknight. At that time, with the city government involved, the name was changed to the more politically-correct Hometown Holiday Parade. From its early days with no more than 40 entries and a crowd of 800 parade-watchers, the event has become the largest in the Valley.
Dutchover counts on 115 volunteers to serve on his event staff, starting with lining up the entries in the Amador Valley High School parking lot and making sure that each steps off quickly as scheduled. Everyone loves a parade, he says, but not when there are block-long gaps. The Pleasanton parade is known for its fast pace, starting at 5:30 p.m. sharp and ending in time for everyone to gather near the Museum On Main where the city's mayor and Santa flip the switch to light the "Holiday" (Christmas) tree. Lighting experts are on hand to make sure the lights power on when the switch is pulled and that microphones are in place for choral groups to sing carols and for Santa to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.
So do all of us at the Pleasanton Weekly.