San Benito Lifestyle

San Juan residents compete in holiday lights competition

Rotary Club-hosted contest replaces traditional parade.
Decorations at 306 Sixth Street in San Juan Bautista. Photo by Noe Magaña.
Decorations at 405 Sixth Street. Photo by Noe Magaña.
Lights on the apartment complex located at 57 Muckelemi Street. Photo by Noe Magaña.
Deep within the apartment complex, a tree is surrounded by decorations. Photo by Noe Magaña.

For the last 14 years, Santa Claus has ridden an antique fire truck in San Juan Bautista’s annual Holiday of Lights parade. Despite not having a parade this year because of COVID-19, Santa will still get to ride the fire truck when he delivers prizes to the winners of the Joy to the World Holiday Decorating Contest.

In an effort to keep the community as involved as they were with the parade, the Rotary Club of San Juan Bautista switched gears as California’s COVID-19 regulations prohibit parades to limit the spread of the virus.

Michelle Huntoon, chairwoman of the Holiday Celebration Committee, said the decorating contest is an opportunity for the community to be involved by either registering to compete or voting for participants. Registration ended on Dec. 4.

“The whole intent of this is to bring the community together as much as we could in this very difficult time,” Huntoon said. 

San Juan resident Angie Ramirez and her neighbors opted to decorate their apartments. Among the decorations include several christmas trees, lights, flowers, banners—even an image depicting Santa Claus skateboarding. 

“We did it for the kids because they had a bad year,” Ramirez said. “The entire complex decided to do it.” 

She said the 11 children in the apartment complex also submitted their letters to Santa Claus in a nearby mailbox.

The holiday lights contest is split into residential and business categories of which the top three with the most votes will receive prizes. Eighteen residential homes registered, along with seven businesses. 

A map of participating houses and businesses is available here

Huntoon said the rotary club hopes the contest brings happiness to all, including business owners. 

“I just feel for our merchants in town, and it’s in every town in America and globally,” she said. “Businesses are being hurt, particularly small businesses by COVID-19 and that is just very sad to see. This is one way we can bring some happiness to everyone, both residents as well as businesses in town. Something that is happy and positive.”

Huntoon highlighted the work done by committee members Rochelle Eagen and Heidi Balz, who did a “tremendous amount of work.”

Though only San Juan Bautista residents and businesses are competing, voting is open for all San Benito County residents and can be done here. The last day to vote is Dec. 18. 


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Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is BenitoLink Co-Editor and Content Manager. He joined BenitoLink as reporter intern and was soon brought on staff as a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. He is a San Benito High School alumnus with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily. He is a USC Center for Health Journalism 2020 California Fellow.