CUDAHY — Stepping into the dark, nondescript warehouse of Pageantry Productions is like entering a technicolored fantasy world.
One room is Santa's workshop with elves busy making toys while a red-faced Santa beams; in another room it is Halloween, with grim-faced scarecrows and toothy witches; in a third room the circus has arrived, with clowns and balloons and muscled men on trapezes.
The rooms in the 13,000-square-foot warehouse on a drab industrial corner were designed to showcase the themes and decorating displays available from Pageantry Productions and its owners Bill and Ronnie Lomas.
While the firm does everything from decorating hotels for any season of the year to putting on Fourth of July fireworks displays and ushering in grand openings of businesses, this is the season for parades. During the Christmas season, Southern Californians will see 10 parades produced by this firm, which also has a business office in Lynwood and is one of the few professional parade producers on the West Coast.
Next Three Weekends Filled
"You can't go out and find many like them," said Lawrence Harmon, director of the Hollywood Christmas Parade, which Pageantry has produced since 1979. "They are a very specialized and unique company."
In addition to the Hollywood parade Sunday, Pageantry Productions will be Santa's helper for the Downey Christmas Parade on Dec. 8 and the South Gate Christmas Parade on Dec. 15. Bill Lomas does all of the design and layout for props and displays, and he works with parade committees, cities and police departments to draw up parade routes.
Ronnie Lomas (her formal name is Veronica) is mostly involved in managing the parades--seeing that there is adequate security, that the public address system works, that judges' stands are erected, that bands, horses and majorettes are in place and, finally, "putting it down the street."
"What I like most is working and interacting with different people," she said. "And seeing to it that the kids are taken care of--making sure that there is water for them to drink and restrooms waiting for them."
She Managed Drum and Bugle Corps
When the couple married nearly 15 years-ago, she came to the union with 10 years of experience managing the Diplomats, a drum and bugle corps based in Lakewood.
Bill Lomas, originally from Canada, said he got started nearly 30 years ago when he settled in Lynwood and opened a trophy shop. He put on his first parade in Lynwood in 1958.
"I went out looking for potential customers and I found that parades used trophies," he said. "But what I found they needed more was somebody to manage and put on their parades."
Twenty-seven years later, Lomas is still directing parades, despite formidable hurdles and their tradition of being prone to mishaps. The most common things that can go wrong are floats not starting and cars or people not showing up, Ronnie Lomas said. But the Lomases also have had to deal with horses collapsing and dying on the parade route.
Firm Reports $2 Million in Sales
"Nothing is all roses," Bill Lomas said, "But there are no really big drawbacks in what I do. If all of the glitches went away, it would be too easy. But I do enjoy having a brainchild, putting it on paper and seeing it come right."
Lomas said the company does more than $2 million a year in sales from its varied enterprises. Ronnie Lomas said that Pageantry does more than half of the contract staging work for the city of Los Angeles, including Mayor Tom Bradley's most recent swearing-in ceremony and the visit three years ago by the Queen of England.
Bill Lomas said his goal is to produce even more spectacular events and parades.
"My goal is to do more challenging things--things that people thought couldn't be done. We are only limited by the number of hours the two of us can work an a day and the number of ideas we can carry around in our heads," he said.
It is work, he added, that he and his wife enjoy. "I do it because it makes people happy," he said. "You don't see people coming to a parade because they are sad. People want to see things that make them happy."