Kids and adults from all over Santa Cruz dribbled down Pacific Avenue in the first Dribble Parade to support the Santa Cruz Warriors. Bella Vista Elementary and several other elementary schools from Santa Cruz let their students out early to encourage participation in the parade. Photo by Casey Amaral.

More than 1,000 people chanted, “Let’s go Warriors, let’s go!” on Pacific Avenue on Jan. 14 for Santa Cruz’s first Dribble Parade, which kicked off this year’s NBA D-League Showcase, hosted by Kaiser Permanente Arena.

The Santa Cruz Warriors, the D-league affiliate of the Golden State Warriors, helped sponsor the event. Geared toward families, the Dribble Parade was held to increase community engagement in the D-League’s premiere event.

“We got a notice from the school and my kindergarten son really wanted to try it,” parent Will Bechar said. “He has only been dribbling for about a week and he really enjoys it. Sports are great for kids. Not only because it keeps them active and teaches motor skills, but it also stimulates them in a physical and mental way.”

The event was more than dribbling — it was a celebration too. Roads were closed off as kids, parents and mascots occupied the street. Kids who attended the event received a free and authentic Harrison Barnes fan poster and a free basketball, which they used to participate in the parade.

“[The Santa Cruz Warriors] are bringing kids from every school to a game and to their presence … They have been doing a great job so far,” Bechar said.

The event began at the intersection of Pacific Avenue and Front Street. Followed by the Warriors’ official vehicle, the “Dub Truck,” kids dribbled basketballs and headed toward Kaiser Permanente Arena.

“It helps people come together and celebrate life,” said Warriors President Jim Weyermann. “We don’t necessarily have enough moments where we just take the time to have fun. This has no higher learning to it. This was just dribbling down the street, which you’re never allowed to do except on parade day.”

In addition to the 1,000 basketballs handed out, the Warriors also provided ticket giveaways for upcoming home games. The parade culminated in a pep rally at Kaiser Permanente Arena that included stunts and trick shots by Mav’Riks — the Warriors mascot — as well as a T-shirt giveaway and a performance by the Soquel High School cheerleading squad. Each child who took part in the parade received a 2-for-1 ticket deal for an upcoming home game.

“This represents the type of connection and love affair we have with this city,” Weyermann said. “To bring this many people, over 1,000 students and their parents, out on a Wednesday afternoon to dribble a basketball is pretty unique. It was a day to come out and have fun, allowing the Santa Cruz community to come together and know we’re here to make a difference.”