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Getting in Step With Christmas : Santa Ana Crowd Plays Along With Toys on Parade

December 06, 1987|DIANNE KLEIN | Times Staff Writer

There was no rain Saturday on this parade, this, the bigger and better fourth annual Toys on Parade in Santa Ana, chock-full of such celebrities as Ronald McDonald, Santa Claus, Mickey Mouse, Heathcliff, Popeye and David Ross.

David Ross?

Sure, you know, the parade chairperson, vice president and general manager of Great Western Reclamation Inc.,squeezed in between the Three Kings and the Cypress High School Band. And then there was Jerry (the Beav) Mathers, the celebrity grand marshal, and the grand marshal himself, Mario (Cantinflas) Moreno, whom parade organizers identified as "Mexico's most famous and beloved film star."

But that's not even half the story. Toys on Parade was mostly about just everyday people, thousands of them lining seven blocks of downtown Santa Ana with lawn chairs, blankets, parkas and bundled-up babies in tow.

Dry Skies

Many of them ate blue cotton candy, several of them drank warm liquids from thermoses, most of them clapped and all of them smiled. Parents spent a lot of time saying things like, "Oh, look, Jenny, here comes Cinderella!" and pointing and waving and "oohing" and "aahhing." They made spectacles of themselves.

Up until an hour before the 10 a.m. starting time, it looked as if it was going to rain. But the clouds parted, even allowing some sunshine to filter down. Everyone agreed this was a big plus.

"It's just beautiful," gushed Leona Eads, 84, of Santa Ana. "This is a second childhood for us."

She looked at her friend and neighbor of 22 years, Addie Sloan, 85, as she spoke.

"I suppose it's the kid in us that brought us out here," Sloan allowed. "The people are so nicely behaved today.

"Oh! Look at that gorgeous thing!" she said, pointing to the Magic of Mother Goose float by Giant Friends of the Community.

Bret Bagne, 26, was sitting with his grandmother Pearl Hargis and Max, his 7-month-old Scottish terrier. Max was having a big time.

"I brought him because this is his first parade," Bagne explained. "But I have to cover his eyes when the horses come because he tries to bark."

Down the route a bit, Hugh David Greenbaum, a Red Cross emergency medical technician, wasn't working. He was just standing there, with all the other "just folks," having a good time watching the parade.

"It's been very, very quiet," he said at one of the parade's three first-aid tents. "That's how it should be. The cool weather helps, and having all these kids around helps. Everyone is more attentive and careful."

Fact is, there wasn't one injury or even a lost child to report. That's the word from volunteer parade helpers and organizers. They were the ones dressed in white sweats, with "Toys on Parade 1987" emblazoned in red across their chests.

Oh, there was one tense moment, according to volunteer David Boris, whose name tag lists his specialty as "dispersal."

"When the Mexican Bob Hope came by, everybody pushed forward to see him," Boris said, referring to Cantinflas. "But Santa was really the big thing."

That's how Valerie Reyna, 6, remembered it. "I liked Santa," she said. "He waved at me." That wave, Valerie was convinced, meant that Mr. Claus would remember her on Christmas Eve when he walks through her front door. (Valerie's mother said they have no chimney in their Santa Ana home.)

Erica Witt, 2 1/2, a.k.a. "Pookie," was sitting atop her uncle's shoulders, sometimes giving her little American flag a tiny wave. She was shy around strangers, not much of a talker. But her uncle, Rob Steyert, 34, of Irvine, had no qualms about putting words into her mouth.

"Go ahead, quote her," he said. "She can't wait to see Santa."

He and his sister, Valerie Witt, 23, of Costa Mesa, said they came to Toys on Parade for Pookie's sake. Sure, they did.

There were 91 entries--including everything from high school bands to Mexican charros to an authentic Japanese Danjiri portable shrine--in this year's city-sponsored parade, with some 6,000 participants. That, parade spokeswoman Theresa Young said, is more than double last year's number. And the crowds, according to parade veterans, were thicker than last year's. Of course, last year it did rain.

Taking home this year's top float honor, the sweepstakes award, was "With the Wave of a Magic Wand," by Great Western Reclamation. It was the parade's first completely floral float--decorated in white, mauve and pink roses, carnations and orchids--and it re-created Cinderella's magic moment riding in her golden carriage pulled by six white horses.

"The Magic of Say Please," by the E. F. Hutton stock brokerage firm, took home the chairperson's award for commercial entries, and "Folklorico," by the Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce, won the mayor's award for non-commercial entries.

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