BY KIM VINCENT
The 20th Anniversary Holiday Parade of Lights was celebrated on the evening of Fri., Dec. 3 at the Naval Air Facility El Centro. With the assistance of the Chief Petty Officer’s Mess, Santa Claus made a special appearance for the military families and the public who attended.
“This year, there was a growing number of entries and spectators,” said Kris Haugh, NAFEC Public Affairs Officer. “There were 29 entries and 1,630 people in attendance. Since we are the first parade of the season, we keep it simple so anybody can participate.”
Haugh added, “The best elementary school band was Seeley Elementary, and the best high school band was Holtville High School. They may have been the only high school here, but they certainly earned it.”
Gene Brister, president and general manager of KXO radio, was once again invited to be the announcer. Brister has participated in this role for nearly 20 years.
Brister said he enjoys attending the parade with his family to get into the Christmas spirit, explaining, “Thank you to those men and women in harm’s way around the world with their families.”
Capt. Brent Alfonzo, commanding officer of NAFEC, said, “This is my first year to attend the Holiday Parade. I loved it. It was a great start to the holiday season, to get you in the mood, to get you thinking about Christmas. It was a very well run and entertaining event to watch.”
Alfonzo learned that it was his duty to pick the top float of the parade, and he chose the American Operations Corporation Support Services entry, the Toy Story-themed float.“People have the chance to see the award-winning AOC Toy Story float again in the Parade of Lights in Imperial,” he said.
Commander Adam Schlismann, executive officer of NAFEC, said it was his fourth year judging the entries in the parade. For the Executive Officer’s Choice Award the commander said he chose “the Imperial County Sheriff’s Office conglomerate of displays. The Sheriff’s Department always supports the event in a big way, and they did again this year. They were award worthy.”
He further noted, “I think it was great. This is the best parade they’ve had since I’ve been here. The weather helped. It’s been cold the last couple years, but it’s been perfect tonight. We even made an extra effort to get the word out, especially to the schools. There were more marching bands. Their neighbors, parents and grandparents were invited on board to watch their kids march and I think a lot of them took advantage of that.”
According to Candyce Zavala, base marketing sponsorship coordinator and parade committee member for the past seven years, the Heber Elementary School Hawks appeared for the first time with their drumline. Also appearing for the first time was the Imperial Valley LGBT Resource Center, who were very excited to participate.
Candyce said, “This was the best parade ever; more attendance, more entries and tons of fun.”
Spectator Teresa Morales started attending the parades at NAFEC about 15 years ago when her son and daughter attended Central High School and she worked at Seeley School.
Morales said, “I personally think this parade was the best so far. I feel that the parade crowd was a lot larger this time. There were more entries. There were more lights, and more people. To me the parade was one of the best ones.”