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The magic of Manteca kids on parade
Dancers from Triple Threat Performing Arts did not let the rain stop them from performing in front of the judges during last years Manteca Chamber of Commerce Twilight Christmas parade. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Is there a Santa Claus?

Ask any one of the thousands of kids who will lineYosemite Avenue in downtown Manteca  next Saturday bundled up against the 45-degree chill. They know the answer.

The bright lights of 100 plus entries in the Manteca Chamber of Commerce twilight Christmas parade will dance in their eyes. The smiles and exclamations pale in comparison to what will light up their faces for the guy who was bringing up the rear of the procession – Santa Claus himself.

 From the response he’ll get, you’ll think he is one of the Fab Four who had just landed in New York City on Feb. 7, 1964 to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Santa is just part of the allure that will bring upwards of 10,000 people downtown on Dec. 1 starting at 5 line curbs and sidewalks along Yosemite Avenue from Library Park to Manteca High for the 40th annual parade.

Where else can you find thousands of kids — little and big — parading down the street spreading holiday cheer?

It will be cool to be a Brock Elliott School eighth grader playing in the band while wearing a blinking red Rudolph noose.

It will be sweet to be a business owner and spend the last few days cobbling together a huge gingerbread house complete with hundreds of bright Christmas lights so you could pull it down Yosemite Avenue to the delight of thousands.

It will be a blast to be a big kid maneuvering your power wheelchair decked out with angels and holly — plus Christmas lights — from the railroad tracks to Garfield Avenue.

And it will be heart warming to watch one and all sing, march, play music, cart wheel, ride a horse or simply drive down the street and wave while thousands upon thousands of holiday lights lit the way.

By comparison, the electric light parade down Main Street at Disneyland is — there’s no delicate way to put this — Mickey Mouse.

Sure, Disney Inc., can put on a professional and seemingly perfect show. But who’d trade that for seeing a dozens upon dozens of young girls from Dance and Cheer Stars decked out in yellow hoodies and Santa hats spreading cheer as they moved to the music of the season? You can almost hear them giggling as they practiced their routine in the days leading up to Saturday.

Manteca’s 40th edition of twilight Christmas parade magic will include JROTC cadets, Manteca Youth Focus titleholders, church groups, Scouts, and more.

And it will be tough to beat the sound of more than a dozen bands, which will have a strong showing of members wearing Santa hats as they marched to the tune of Christmas songs.

Even the elementary bands that aren’t exactly dialed in yet will sound great. Marching music is always better when it is played by your kid, the neighbor boy down the street or the young girl who plays soccer on Saturdays on a team coached by one of your co-workers.

And how can a Disney character on parade beat literally hundreds upon of hundreds of kids — cheerleaders, gymnasts, youth football players, Cub Scouts, church group members, preschoolers and others — spreading Christmas cheer with their smiles as they ventured down Yosemite from Library Park to Manteca High?

The crowd will be able to warm their hearts watching the entries created by family friends, neighbors and community members. The smiles of those marching will be magnified a 100 times by the kids scrambling from their curb seats to retrieve tossed candy or pointing and laughing at a float going by.

Mickey Mouse, when he makes his appearance during parades, may trigger excitement down at Disneyland. But he can never match the wide-eyed wonder and glow on a 5-year-old’s cheeks as she jumps up and down pointing to the lead fire engine at the parade’s rear as she practically shouts, “Mommy! Mommy! Look it’s Santa Claus!”

The most magical place on earth this Saturday evening won’t be in Anaheim. It’ll be along Yosemite Avenue in downtown Manteca.

— DENNIS WYATT/209 staff reporter