San Juan Bautista parade returns

The Holiday of Lights brings San Benito County residents out to celebrate.

San Juan Bautista celebrated the start of the holiday season on Dec. 4 with its 15th annual Holiday of Lights Parade.  

The parade was sponsored by the Rotary Club of San Juan Bautista, and was chaired by Rotarian and Aromas-San Juan Unified School District Superintendent Michele Huntoon. She was also a judge at the parade, along with fellow Rotary members Phil Esparza and SJB Vice Mayor Cesar Flores.

The sidewalks of Third Street were filled with spectators—some sitting in parklets at the restaurants they were dining at, others in the streets clad in holiday garb. All were excited to look at the 34 parade entries. 

It was a welcome celebration, Huntoon said. 

“It was so wonderful just to look and see how many people were here this evening,” she said.

San Juan Bautista did not have a Holiday of Lights Parade in 2020 because of the pandemic. 

“We had a different event out in the community [last year], where residents decorated their homes and we went around and judged,” Huntoon said. “It was really fun, but we only did it because we couldn’t have our parade.” 

Huntoon was aware that plans for this year’s parade could “change on a dime,” but it went off better than expected. 

“It warmed my heart to see the streets of San Juan Bautista lined with the community, their children, and others who came from outside the community to attend the parade. That’s community support,” Huntoon said.

Esparza was also pleased, noting that not even the number of parade entries had dropped this year. 

“Thirty-six is the most entries we’ve had, so we are right up there again,” he said. “It’s a great way to begin coming back.”

San Juan Bautista resident Karen Kulpa, who attended the parade with her granddaughter Ava, 5, tried to contain her excitement before the parade began. 

“It’s so great to have our town back,” she said. “This is just awesome. We love this town.” 

Drew McAlister, a trustee for the San Benito County Office of Education, was also happy. 

“It was great to just see everybody out again,” he said. “It was great seeing everybody come out and get together again and celebrate. It’s so much better than Zoom.”

Parade winners  

  • Judges Favorite: Inaka Restaurant
  • Best Use of Lights: San Benito High School Band
  • Best Community Organization: Rancho Maze Middle School Band
  • Best Children’s Entry: San Juan Home & School Club
  • Best Vehicle: A & N Plumbing
  • Honorable Mention: E Clampus Vitus


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Jenny Mendolla Arbizu

Jenny is a Hollister native who resides in her hometown with her husband and son. She is a San Benito High School graduate, and received her BA in Literature from UC Santa Cruz and her MA in Education from San Jose State University. Jenny has written for the Hollister Freelance, San Benito and South Valley magazines. She enjoys meeting new people in San Benito County, sharing breaking news with the community, and spotlighting the county’s events and businesses. When not writing, Jenny can be found performing with SBSC, singing with the Hollister VFW, or working out at Cold Storage CrossFit.