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By Casey Christie / The Californian
BY ASHLEY FISCHER Contributing writer
There aren't a lot of rules when it comes to the NOR Christmas Parade; during this down-home holiday tradition, just about anything goes -- except motors.
Like Santa's sleigh, the only thing powering this parade is good old-fashioned foot and hoof power, and a lot of Christmas spirit. According to parade director Lisa Walker, this lack of motorization is what makes the NOR parade so fun, and what has kept families lining the street on frosty December mornings for the past 41 years.
41st Annual NOR Christmas Parade
When: 10 a.m. Saturday
Where: North Chester Avenue
"One year I even had someone bring their pet chicken and carry it in a cage as they walked down the road. We don't turn anyone away. As long as they're in the spirit of Christmas, that's all that matters."
-- Lisa Walker, NOR Christmas Parade director
"Most parades, you can drive vehicles and have floats and things like that," she said. "This parade started during a time when gas was really expensive -- there wasn't a lot of money, and then it became the self-propelled parade."
Everyone in the community is encouraged to participate, and year after year senior groups, Boy and Girl Scout troops, and even individual community members find new and innovative ways to move themselves down the parade's designated route along North Chester.
"Charming is the biggest word I'd use to describe it," Walker said. "It's very community-oriented. We have a lot of marching bands, people riding horses, riding bikes, pulling wagons; one year I even had someone bring their pet chicken and carry it in a cage as they walked down the road. We don't turn anyone away. As long as they're in the spirit of Christmas, that's all that matters."
And while the NOR parade is mostly fun and games, there is some friendly competition involved. That's where Tonny Gisbertz, principal of Highland Elementary School, comes in. Before volunteering to serve as a parade judge, Gisbertz had never attended the NOR parade, but seven years later, he's still judging and still loving every minute of it.
"I'd always heard about the Oildale parade, and personally, I hadn't been to a parade in years," he said. "The thing I recall most about the first year I saw it was that I grinned from the time it started 'til the time it ended. My cheeks were sore from grinning the whole time; I just loved it. And that's why I've kept coming back; I look forward to it every year."
Not surprisingly, there haven't been a lot of controversial defeats or revoked wins in the years that Gisbertz has been judging. Eight trophies are awarded honoring the best marching band, or the "most creative" group, and, according to both Gisbertz and Walker, it's not so much about the trophies themselves but the memories participants make trying to win them.
"The kids really love it," said Walker. "It kind of gets them excited about it, thinking that they could win something. It's really not about the trophies; they just make things a little bit more exciting. The essence of what we're trying to do here is build memories in the community. This is something families can come to that they know is safe and family-friendly."
For anyone hoping to get into the sole-ful spirit of this parade, make sure you get there on time; Walker keeps things moving at a steady clip. Last year the NOR parade boasted 56 individual entries for a grand total of about 2,000 marchers, but with Walker's no-straggling rule, the whole thing wrapped up in 45 minutes.
"We're small but condensed," she said. "I do not like lagging in parades. I like to keep it going: boom, boom, boom. It's exciting; there's just never really a dull moment."