EL CENTRO — The 72nd El Centro Christmas Parade attracted hundreds of spectators to watch marching school bands, drill teams, cheerleaders, elaborate Holiday floats, and even Santa Claus riding on a fire engine down the parade route Saturday morning in El Centro.

For about two and a half hours, Charla Stewart, one of several announcers along the parade route, introduced each entry of the Christmas parade. To keep her voice going on a chilly morning, she drank coffee and took sips of water. According to her, she has been announcing for many years.

Stewart said there were 131 entries in the parade this year. “It was a good sized parade, and everybody did a great job getting into the holiday spirit. They had fantastic floats, all the bands dressed up, the kids had jingle bells on and Santa hats. It was great.”

The beautiful weather, Stewart said, contributed to a great crowd with lots of energy. Some great business and community organizations came out to celebrate and to entertain the El Centro community.

Along the parade route that began on the corner of Main and 12th streets, spectators lined both sides of the street heading east and south into 8th Street and ending on Aurora Drive along Bucklin Park. Banner walkers representing sponsors for the parade divisions were followed by colorful marching bands, floats, vehicles, and drill teams.

Parents sat on folding chairs, and some kids lounged on blankets covering the cold street curb. Toddlers sat on the laps of their fathers and mothers who carried umbrellas, and grandparents sat on their dual-purpose walkers. Occasionally, children, parents and grandparents covered their ears to dampen the sudden blasts of sirens from vehicles. Vendors walking up and down the route sold snacks or toys.

Twin sisters Elisa Garcia and Stefanie Garcia and their children sat on the curb along 8th Street. According to Elisa, who claimed she was older by two minutes, they have traditionally watched the parade since they were little girls. The twins are now 25 years old.

Stefanie Garcia brought her three children and a bag of snacks and drinks. “ We come every year — our same spot since we’ve been back,” she said.

Across 8th Street, Calexico resident Irma Garcia and her daughter, Victoria Arredondo, 7, sat watching the parade. “We’ve come every year for the past 7 years,” Arrendondo said. However, this year, she brought her nieces Carla and Camila Uribe, nine-year-old twin sisters. It was their first time to watch the El Centro parade.

Arredondo said her favorite part of the parade was seeing Santa Claus riding on the fire engine. Not so with the Uribe twins. Both said, “I liked the cheerleaders.”

Seated beneath a beach umbrella were the Benefield family. Austin’s daughter, Aubree, 2, sat on his lap. His wife, Britney, held one-year-old Brock on her lap. Between their chairs were a diaper bag and a snack bag.

Austin Benefield said, “We come every year with the kids. We like the bands, we like the whole thing, nothing in particular.”

Right after completing her march with Central Union High School’s Great Spartan Band, Yoselyn Cortez, 15, joined her mother watch the rest of the parade.

“I’m in tall flags. It is really fun. I love it because you say ‘Hi’ to everyone. We did good. We did awesome,” Cortez said.

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