Electric Light Parade adds holiday sparkle to area
The Dorothy Young Memorial Electric Light Parade isn’t just going to give off a lot of light Saturday night. It’s going to leave a lot of light in its wake.
In what may be the biggest turnout of participants in the event’s 16-year history, more than 100 entries are confirmed for the parade that will get underway at 6 p.m., traveling north on 4th Avenue to downtown Yuma.
Whether they’re floats, cars, marching bands, pedestrians or walking animals, all the entries will be wrapped up in or otherwise decorated with vivid lights that have made the parade a much-anticipated holiday tradition among Yumans.
Named for a late city of Yuma employee who championed it in early days, the parade today is organized and presented by Visit Yuma. Steven Hennig, marketing manager for the visitor information organization, says the public will be able to appreciate the event on several different levels.
“One is the spectacle,” he said. “It’s a large parade with lots and lots of music and lights. It’s just a great spectacle.
“The other thing is the sense of community. People of all demographics come out to see the parade. It’s really a great sense of community you feel when you’re there and you participate in it,” said Hennig.
“Sense of community” might just be an understatement. After all, by Visit Yuma’s count, about 40,000 people gather to see the parade each year.
Given that, Hennig suggests people arrive early to secure public parking and to get a good viewing spot along the route.
The parade will start at 9th and 4th Avenue, heading north on 4th to 4th Street, where it will turn east, then turn north again on 2nd Avenue. It will continue north to Giss Parkway, turning onto Main Street, where it will conclude at the intersection of 2nd Street.
Bring your own seat, Hennig advises. And bring a blanket — it could be chilly by the time the parade gets going.
The theme for the parade is “Celebrating Yuma Agriculture,” so ideally a farming motif will be plain to see amid all the colorful lights strewn over each entry.
Agriculture had never been the theme for the parade, said Hennig, and it was picked this year “mostly because we really value the connection that this community has to the agriculture industry that is so important to it.”
The entry judged as best reflecting the theme will receive the Mary Jane Allen Award, which comes with a $300 prize.
It is one of six awards to be handed out to entries picked as best in their categories by a panel of judges. A $250 award will be given out for the float judged as best in the parade based on the criteria of originality, quality of workmanship, adherence to the farming theme, uniqueness of decoration and overall appearance.
Awards will also be given out in the amounts of $175 for best vehicle, $150 for the animal entry and $175 for a walking/performing entry. Marching bands that appear in the parade compete for a traveling trophy, the Dorothy Young Memorial Trophy for Best Performance by a Marching Band.
Visit Yuma will announce winners sometime during the week after the parade, Hennig said.
Parade entrants are businesses, government agencies, school, nonprofit organizations and clubs from around the Yuma area. The creativity they use in preparing floats, vehicles and other types of entries is what keeps the event fresh from year to year, he said.
“Entrants are not going to do the same thing each year. Just seeing how different entrants use the theme and how they depict the theme makes the parade unique each year.”
And agriculture being this year’s theme, it should spark all kinds of creative ideas for Saturday’s parade, he said. Well over 100 entries had been confirmed for the parade by last week’s cutoff, and Hennig believes that’s the largest number in its history.
Sponsors of Saturday’s parade are Arizona Public Service, Southwest Gas, Lockheed Martin, Liberty Motorsports, Westerner Products and Yuma International Airport.
As the city of Yuma’s then-Heritage Festivals coordinator, Dorothy Young got the parade started in the 2002, with APS playing an instrumental role as a major sponsor and co-organizer in its early success. When Young passed away in 2010, the event was renamed the Dorothy Young Memorial Electric Light Parade.
“She had done a lot of events with Heritage Festivals,” said Hennig, “but she always commented that the Electric Light Parade was her favorite.”
DESTINY CHURCH OF YUMA WON THE CATEGORY OF BEST FLOAT in the 2016 Dorothy Young Memorial Electric Light Parade.
COLORFUL VEHICLES GET IN LINE IN THE DOROTHY YOUNG Memorial Electric Light Parade, which takes place again Saturday. The Gadsden Elementary School District’s award-winning marching band (below) is again scheduled to take part in this year’s parade.
A CANDY HOUSE MAKES ITS WAY DOWN THE PARADE route in last year’s parade. The public can always count on seeing a vivid display at the event (left).