By Carrie Abel

The holidays are here and Santa Cruz is spreading the cheer with its many holiday events, starting with the parade. Kicking things off is the annual Downtown Santa Cruz Holiday Parade, which will take place this Saturday, Dec. 1 from 10 a.m. to noon.

The parade will run from Laurel Street down to Water Street, filling the roadway with performers while the crowds watch from the sidewalks. Over 8,000 people come to watch the show each year, crowding the full length of Pacific Avenue.

The Holiday Parade is a long-standing tradition, having run for about 30 years.

“Holiday cheer is spread throughout the land,” said Chip, director of promotions at the Downtown Association.

Chip explained that this year there are 50 entries or groups that will take part in the parade.

“[There will be] the Santa Cruz High marching band, classic cars, and roller derby girls” Chip said. Even the library staff will do a choreographed routine. The parade will also include floats, horses, fire trucks, and more.

And as usual, the parade will end with “a fat guy in a red suit who keeps coming every year,” Chip joked. Santa will be riding down Pacific Avenue on a sled.

Carmel Benson, the mother of two children named Zoe and Dylan, said she is sure her kids would love the parade, and hopes they get to attend.

Zoe, age six, is excited to see the jolly, red-suited man. “Santa is going to be there!” Zoe said. Zoe’s seven-year-old brother Dylan said he is excited about seeing the elves.

“It’s going to be fun,” Dylan said.

Although holiday events like the parade have not yet started, downtown Santa Cruz has been bustling with early shoppers since Thanksgiving weekend.

Vanessa Olson, an employee at the Bonny Doon Garden Company on Pacific Avenue, said that surprisingly, the holiday crowds don’t always help business.

“Sometimes when there are lots of people downtown we don’t get a lot of business,” Olson said.

However, Olson said she has been enjoying the happy holiday spirit she has seen in customers.

“People are generally cheery [around the holidays].”