By DANNY YOEONO
MARTINEZ, Calif. – If there is a national war on Christmas, someone forgot to tell Martinez. The town’s downtown streets were alive with Yuletide spirit last Friday at the Martinez Holiday Frolic and Light Parade.
Martinez Recreation Supervisor Patty Lorick said the event “was a gift from the City Council to the community.” A gift it was, wrapped and delivered by the fat man himself.
The City spent only $2,500 on an evening that brought in a record number of families and bodies to an often quiet downtown. The streets teamed with kids with sparkles in their eyes in a volume that can only be compared to the Homecoming Parade, but instead of persons being spread along Alhambra Avenue and Main Street, they were all in the roughly two-block section of Main Street. At least that was the case after 5 p.m. when all non-Main Street activities ceased.
It was one-stop shop Christmas. There were arts and crafts, candy canes littered about, Santa’s House was open for business along with the ice rink, a jolly parade, inflatable games, hot cocoa and an ugly sweater contest at Barrelista.
Perhaps known Martinez resident Mary Hatch said it best: “What a blast last night. Martinez was certainly the place to be. Never have I seen so many people out for a parade and the whole evening continued that way. The ice rink was packed, we went to a sold out show at Armando’s, people were saying they were having trouble finding parking – usually not a downtown problem at night … just a great night.”
The main event of the evening was truly the light parade that went from City Hall through Main Street and then took a left at Ferry Street, where it ended. The crowd marveled at the floats and performers that were an expression of everything that is good about the holidays, specifically the Santa impersonator on a motorcycle strewn with colored lights.
In an exclusive interview with the real Santa from inside his house, he delivered this message: “Do not stay inside all the time.” Santa heard many requests for electronics and wanted to remind kids that they have to get out and play. The big guy also said the most popular toy kids wanted this year was Hatchables.
In the small parking lot across from the Campbell Theater, tables were set up for more arts and crafts. One table sponsored and run by Childtime Learning Center had waffle ice cream cones covered in green frosting for the kids to stick treats or gummies onto, like decorating a four inch edible Christmas tree. The face painting table was sponsored and operated by St. Catherine’s. Faces around downtown were adorned with reindeer, candy canes and snowflakes.
In the plaza was Santa’s sleigh, where family after family sat, smiled and had their photos taken by whomever’s phone had the best camera.
Kids at the Holiday Frolic got a taste of Martinez’ rich fishing history with the Candy Cane Fishing game set up where a candy cane was tied to the end of string that was tied to the end of a stick. The fisher of candy would use the candy cane fishing pool to snag another candy cane out of a kiddie pool, barrel-o-monkeys style. The game was festive and fun and an important life lesson in fishing every child should know, although if a “fisher” did not succeed in catching a peppermint treat, they were awarded one anyway.
Alhambra High School sent up to 30 volunteers. Possibly thanks to the graduation requirement of 15 hours of community service. But I ran into three volunteers handing out free paper hats that fit upon the head like a crown. One of these volunteers, Brisenth Coria, a senior at Alhambra, admitted the need to fulfill her volunteer hours; but her friend Moreyna Hernandez, a junior, said she didn’t need the hours but just wanted to help. The third volunteer, Maria Escobar, is a sophomore at Alhambra and worked an arts and crafts table that was stationed at the veterans hall where Escobar “watched to make sure the kids don’t eat glue.”
I got to the Frolic at 6 p.m., which means I missed activities that closed by 5:30 – like Candy Cane Lane at the library where there were candy cane related crafts and a selfie holiday booth, the Reindeer Stop at the Veteran’s Hall, RC the Recycle Elf’s Workshop at Veteran’s Hall (RC also has the alias of “Dumpster Diving Diva”), the Gingerbread House at the Martinez Museum, Hot Cocoa with Frosty, and the Court Street tree lighting.
The Martinez Recreation Department would like to thank everyone that came to the event: “A special thank you to all the folks that brought floats, drove a car, walked or rode in a vehicle. You made the parade extra wonderful.”