Rain? Not on this holiday parade

Organizers keep the city tradition going a 49th year
By: Lien Hoang, The Press Tribune
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There was rain, but not on the parade. Saturday’s 49th annual Sylvia Besana Holiday Parade defied the weather gods, albeit in an “abbreviated” form, in the word of emcee Kat Maudru, of 96.9 the Eagle.

For the procession along Vernon Street, paraders passed by in many forms: in the trucks and flatbeds of floats, on haystacks, on horseback, dancing, skating, playing instruments, and - with Santa bringing up the caboose - in a fire engine. The parade ended within an hour of its 3 p.m. start time, prompting several to ask, “It’s over?”

Most, though, understood that organizers - who made an 11th hour decision this morning to keep up the parade tradition - did what they could with the precipitation.

“I’m sorry for it,” spectator Bob Erickson said of the smaller-than-usual parade, crowd, and crafts and food fair. “But the weather dictated it.”

But timing was not bad: the parade finished just before the arrival of rain, an intermittent guest throughout the day. It also poured right after the 6:30 p.m. tree lighting. This is the first year both events happened in conjunction.

Some expressed disappointment with the outcome. Erickson said he knew to expect a modest production, but Saturday was “slower than slow.”

Marci Fisher wished fewer participants had pulled out. “That was kind of a bummer,” said Fisher, who was up at 5 a.m. checking the City of Roseville’s website to see whether the show would go on.

Nearby, her 3-year-old, Gracie, spilled a pink beanie stuffed with treats. What was Gracie’s favorite part of the day? “Candy!” she said.

Others were just happy the holiday custom made it through one more year.

“The weather … held out,” said Laura Lilley, who marched in the parade with Blue Line Gallery. “I was afraid I’d be walking in the rain with no people!”

Outgoing Roseville Mayor Gina Garbolino told the Press Tribune she was glad to keep Besana’s spirit alive. “Her luck continues, even though she’s not with us anymore,” she said.

Though rain barred bounce houses and a movie screen, many guests stayed downtown for the 2-hour gap between parade and tree-lighting. They decorated cookies at the Blue Line Gallery. They drank at the North Pole Tavern. And they visited vendors who gave out toothbrushes, served kettle corn, or sold jewelry.

One of those vendors, Carol Chilcote, specializes in therapeutic rice bags. She was disappointed not to have more traffic, but would like to return for another parade.

“I actually like it in the garage,” said Chilcote, of Chilcote’s Creations, one of 15 booths inside the parking garage near Tower Theatre. That represented about a quarter of businesses originally scheduled for the festivities and typically set in the open air.

At the theater itself, visitors experienced a free soup-tasting, which was supposed to cost $5.

“Anybody that comes out deserves to be rewarded,” parade committee member Dave Piches said of the choice to give out soup.

One guest arrived to the theater amid applause and high-fives: Santa, who packed the front room with children, parents, and others who just wanted to see Old Saint Nick.

Then, a little before 6:30 p.m., the mayor illuminated the city’s Christmas tree.

Parade-goer Kevin Cooney called the moment a “spectacular blast of lights.” His wife Shawn added that the raindrops brought a certain sparkle to the decorated tree.

“With the rain coming down and the lights coming on, it was really neat,” she said.

For more photos of the celebrations, visit our gallery.

Lien Hoang can be reached at