The days to the 10th annual Alton Christmas Parade are counting down and Special Programs Coordinator Samm Mercado and City Secretary Baudelia Rojas are tying up all the loose ends for the event Dec. 12.
So far there are 21 entries in the lineup, but Mercado said his goal is 45, which is five more than last year’s amount. Even though there are mere days until the procession, Mercado and Rojas remain confident they’ll achieve their desired turnout.
“They’re coming in, it’s coming together and I’m very excited about that,” the programs coordinator said. “We’re going to get there.”
The two have been recruiting for the parade since October, getting the word out through email, phone calls and even working after hours. Mercado, who has held his position for 13 months, said his favorite part about the job is engaging with community members.
“Going out and reaching out to our community and getting to know and meet business owners, getting to know and meet citizens of Alton, that’s the best part about it,” he said. “I reach out to them and the fun part is that they, in turn, will reach out to us. We’ve had people stop by our office and ask ‘How can we help? How can we get involved?’ And that’s nice to hear.”
Some of the parade participants for this year include the girls softball team Alton S.W.A.T., Richards Pharmacy, the Alton McDonald’s and bands from high schools in the area. Entries have come from as far as San Benito to be a part of the annual gathering.
Rojas has seen the event progress through the last nine years as city manager. She said each year the entries increase and there is more community participation.
This year, after Santa rides in with the Alton Fire Department and closes out the parade, a Christmas festival will follow at the Alton Recreational Center. The coordinators invited local musicians as well as choirs from the three school districts Alton serves — Sharyland ISD, La Joya ISD and Mission CISD. Local organizations will have food and arts and crafts booths set up in the center. The San Martin de Porres youth group will also perform a nativity scene.
“We always use really positing words around here. (Baudelia) will say ‘It’s fabulous’ and I’ll say ‘It’s exciting’ because it is,” Mercado said. “Yes, it is a great accomplishment but it’s so nice to see the community come together.”
During the festival, the Greater Alton Chamber of Commerce will be giving away toys for children. Last year, they handed out 650 toys but this year, they were able to purchase almost 1000 toys for the giveaway. They will be handed out on a first come, first serve basis and only for ages 8 and under.
“(It’s) a cliche, but it’s rewarding to see it all come together and to see everyone enjoy what we have put together for them,” Mercado said. “When we’re going up and down the parade route and we’re seeing literally 3,000 to 5,000 people on the parade route, that’s exciting to know that we have local citizens and people from other cities that will come to Alton to enjoy the Christmas parade.”