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November 20, 2012 > Festival of Lights kicks off the season

Festival of Lights kicks off the season

By Julie Grabowski

What lifts spirits, unites the community, and is a staple of the holiday season? If you're a resident of the Tri-Cities, the answer is most likely the Niles Festival of Lights Parade. A fun and heartwarming launch into Christmas time, the parade marches into its 12th year the day after Thanksgiving, on Friday, November 23.

Created by the Niles Merchants Association, the Festival of Lights is strictly a people pleasing affair. "We're very community, child oriented," says association Treasurer and Event Coordinator Marie Dear. At the time when the parade began, there was only the Fourth of July parade in Fremont, and the idea sparked. "We thought it would really be special if we could host a Christmas parade for the children and community."

The parade has since become a hometown holiday tradition for many and continues to grow every year. People come as early as 2 p.m. to set up chairs and soak in the Niles holiday atmosphere. The Hot Rods will strike up some pre-parade rock 'n' roll merriment at 4 p.m.; the downtown section of Niles Boulevard will be closed at 4 p.m. and reopen at 9 p.m., so plan your arrival accordingly.

"We have more floats than ever this year," says Dear, citing the Chapel of the Roses "Nightmare Before Christmas" entry as a new, and sure to be favorite, addition. Although no helium is available, giant balloons will still bob down the boulevard with air infusions, the "Star Wars" characters will be back, along with the American High School Band and Tri-City Band as well as dozens of fun and unique floats created by the community. And, of course, there is that guy in the red suit, and all those lights going on in a big tree.

So bundle up and prepare for an evening of hometown merriment! The firefighters union will be at I Street and Niles Boulevard selling hot chocolate and coffee, hot dogs will be available for those needing a little more substance, and Niles eateries will be open for business. Most shops will have treats for parade goers and merchants' doors will be open until 9 p.m.

Friday also kicks off the Niles Open House, during which all Niles Shops will be open, offering Christmas treats and holiday sales. The Open House runs through Sunday, November 25, and is the perfect chance to find great, unique treasures for the friends and family on your shopping list.

Other Friday night Niles offerings include the Essanay Silent Film Museum's screening of the romantic holiday comedy "Remember the Night" (1940, Paramount) staring Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray. Proceeds will benefit the Adopt a Family/Adopt a Senior program. The film will start around 8 p.m., after the Festival of Lights Parade has ended. Tickets are $10 when purchased in advance through PayPal at, and $12 if purchased at the door. Admission price includes popcorn and a drink.

Or if music is more your mood, secure prime viewing real estate for the parade and afterwards enjoy a short one-set concert by McNevin & McClellan with special guests at The Mudpuddle Shop. A "puddle jam" may follow. Tickets are $20 and space is limited. RSVP to (510) 794-9935 or

The Festival of Lights Parade is made possible by fundraisers throughout the year as well as donations from Niles shop owners, contributions from the community, and generous sponsorship from the likes of Fremont Bank and Legacy Real Estate. Those who wish to help keep this parade going strong can make contributions at a donation station at the event, or stop by Morning Glory Antiques, located at 37313 Niles Boulevard, next to the fire station.

So whether you're looking for a little joy, a picture with Santa, an opportunity to dance off some of that Thanksgiving dinner, jump start your shopping, or just spend time in the community, the Festival of Lights is sure to brighten up the start of your holiday.

Festival of Lights Parade
Friday, Nov 23
6 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Niles Blvd., Fremont
(510) 792-8023

Fundraiser Movie Show
Friday, Nov 23
8 p.m.
Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum
37417 Niles Blvd., Fremont
(510) 494-1411
Tickets: $10 in advance, $12 at the door

Tree Lighting Parade and Mudpuddle Shop Concert
Friday, Nov 23
6 p.m.
The Mudpuddle Shop
37433 Niles Blvd., Fremont
(510) 794-9935
Tickets: $20

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