Children of all ages delight in downtown El Cajon’s 70th annual Mother Goose Parade

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Downtown El Cajon started celebrating the 2016 holiday season on Nov. 20, with the 70th annual staging of the East County city’s Mother Goose Parade. Unlike other formal parades, this one has no formally designated divisions or sections. Befitting a storybook parade, this assemblage of entries is organized into “Chapters.” The parade’s stated purpose from its origins has been to be a gift to the children of San Diego County.

Downtown El Cajon started celebrating the 2016 holiday season on Nov. 20, with the 70th annual staging of the East County city’s Mother Goose Parade. Unlike other formal parades, this one has no formally designated divisions or sections. Befitting a storybook parade, this assemblage of entries is organized into “Chapters.” The parade’s stated purpose from its origins has been to be a gift to the children of San Diego County.

And children of all ages lined Main Street to watch this year’s version of the holiday story unfold before their eyes. Floats, balloons, classic cars, motorcycles, equestrian units astride horses, marching bands and dancing troupes moved out along the downtown El Cajon parade route.

Parade organizers have estimated that attendance exceeds 250,000 and increases each year. This is the largest parade of its kind west of the Mississippi River, featuring over 100 entries this year. The Mother Goose Parade is regularly scheduled on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

Mark Grant appeared as the parade’s Grand Marshall for 2016. Grant is a former major league baseball pitcher, currently working as color analyst for the San Diego Padres baseball franchise and as announcer and broadcaster for local sports shows. He is a resident of East County, where he lives with his wife and three children. Longtime local media figures “Shotgun” Tom Kelly and Ken Kramer served as Honorary Grand Marshalls for the 2016 parade.

A companion event held in conjunction with the Mother Goose Parade is “Holiday Lights on Main,” encouraging attendees to “shop small” around downtown El Cajon. Entertainment included live music performed by Clay Colton during midday hours and rock and rock tribute music from the Petty Breakers in the late afternoon through evening. Santa’s Village opened an El Cajon outlet straight from the North Pole, with carnival rides and ice skating as activities. Central festivity culminating the celebration was lighting of the El Cajon Christmas tree, located at the corner of Main Street and Magnolia Avenue. Adding to the celebratory atmosphere was a simple wedding ceremony conducted for a local couple before the downtown Christmas tree lights were lit.

Organizers with the Mother Goose Parade Association are at work 12 months of each year. The stated mission of the group is to foster “unity, family bonding and social togetherness.” Associated activities include arts contests for elementary school students, a leadership and scholarship program for young women that selects the Mother Goose Parade Queen and her Royal Court, and a health and wellness “fun run” called “Run with the Goose” for children and their parents on the morning of the parade.

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