The 20th annual East Los Angeles Christmas Parade starts at 1 p.m. today, continuing a tradition started by Whittier Boulevard merchants and the East Los Angeles Jaycees in response to Vietnam War-era unrest.
The 1.6-mile parade will begin at the corner of Whittier Boulevard and Eastern Avenue and head east to Atlantic Boulevard, south to Olympic Boulevard and east again to its terminus at Goodrich Boulevard. Organizers expect 350 participants in the two-hour-long parade and 300,000 onlookers along the route. Last year's event brought out an estimated 250,000.
Included in the parade will be high school marching bands and grand marshals Tony Plana and Aida Mares, actors who have been involved in the parade for years.
Junior grand marshals will be Gabriela Ordaz, 12, and Eddie Muniz, 13. Both are involved in the East Los Angeles Youth Leadership Council, which cleans up neighborhoods and seeks ways to reduce dropout and pregnancy rates.
Ordaz, who attends Belvedere Middle School, spearheaded a program there in which older students are mentors for younger ones. Merchants and other communityactivists organized the parade tobring peace to the neighborhoodafter student walkouts protestingthe Vietnam War exploded into ariot.