The Norco Christmas Parade: A River Parishes tradition

Published 2:32 pm Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The Norco Christmas Parade ran from the 1950s through the 1980s before it was discontinued. In 2001, a few residents, Norco Civic Association President Stephen Weber, revived the parade for the next generations.

I grew up in the sixties and seventies, and I do remember the Norco Christmas parade. It was a nice parade,” Weber said. “We never figured out the reason, but sometime in the early eighties, real early eighties, maybe ‘81, ‘82, the parade just stopped. It disbanded, I guess, and we didn’t have it.”

According to Weber, he ended up reinstating the parade in an unexpected turn of events.

“I was actually teaching at Destrehan High School at the time, and Sal Digirolamo was talking to Chipper Simon,” Weber said. “Mr. Sal Digirolamo was the president of the Civic Association. I sort of made a joke and said, hey, we gotta bring that Norco Christmas Parade back, and then next thing you know, Mr. Sal kind of turned the tables on me and I’m receiving phone calls about the Norco Christmas Parade. He had told people that I was gonna head it up. That was in 2001.”

The parade has rolled nearly every year since 2001, with the exception of a few years due to inclement weather conditions.

“I think one time it was rained out. For Hurricane Ida we did not have it, and Hurricane Katrina,” Weber said. “I think with the exception of three times since 2001, we’ve rolled.”

“The parade is finalized. I’ve already sent the participants directions for the lineup,” said Weber. “Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus will fly the route in the helicopter and land on the levee at around 12:40 right near Apple Street on River Road. Once Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus get in, right around 1 p.m. we begin the parade.”

Approximately 70 entries from all around the River Parishes will roll through the streets of Norco, including floats, trucks, marching groups, dance groups, equestrian riders, pageant queens and school bands. According to Weber, although the parade takes place in Norco, at its heart it is a River Parishes parade.

“I really think that this parade, being that it’s always the first Sunday in December, kind of rings in the Christmas season for the River Parishes, because we have groups all through the River Parishes,” Weber said. “We have middle schools from both sides of the river, elementary schools from St. John and St. Charles Parish this year. Maybe a few groups from St. James.”

Over the years, Weber has learned a lot about what it takes to coordinate an event of this magnitude.

“When we started the parade, I was lost. We actually called the Bonfire Fest because they were having parades back in 2000. We called them for ideas. You know, how do you run a parade?” Weber said. “And they gave us plenty of ideas, but the thing that we didn’t know was how much it takes. How much it takes to actually get permission to land a helicopter on a levee. I mean, that’s not easy.”

Weber credits much of the smoothness with which the parade has run with to the St. Charles Sheriff’s Department and the St. Charles Parish government, along with other volunteers.

“The security and the police, they are phenomenal. I mean, they do it for free and the police presence is always positive and they help us organize at the beginning of the parade and they keep it rolling,” Weber said. “We couldn’t have this parade if it wasn’t for Shell, Valero, the St. Charles Parish government and the police department. I wouldn’t be doing it anymore. They make it easy for us.”

The Norco Civic Association also meets with the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to discuss protocols to avoid and handle incidents as they come.

“What happens if there’s an emergency in the middle of a parade? Do you have EMTs in the parade? And we normally have them spread out through the parade,” Weber said. “We very rarely, and I cross my fingers when I say this, have had accidents during the parade.”

Over the past 22 years, the Norco Civic Association has learned what it takes to put together a safe and fun event for all ages.

“I didn’t learn what it meant to be a teacher and how to teach for the first year until that door closed behind me. And about five to seven years after that, when I was stealing material from people and learning actually how to control a class and teach,” Weber said. “So, I think like anything else, over the years, you learn and there’s always something new that comes each year. Every now and then I get a group from the parade that will send me a little note saying, hey man, this is the most organized parade we’ve ever been in.”

Weather permitting, the parade will roll on Sunday, Dec. 3 at 1 p.m. with the theme, “Norco Noel: Santa Celebrates the Joy of Christmas.” The parade will begin at 1 p.m. at River Road and Apple Street, travel east to Good Hope Street, turn north on Sixth Street, then travel south on Apple Street to River Road.

The lineup of the parade includes various dance groups, cheer groups and bands from schools around the River Parishes, the Star Wars 501 Battalion, the River Region Drama Guild, the Pony Tales Pony Group, the Krewe des Fleurs, the Ain’t Misbehavin Social Club and the River Region Ballet, to name a few.

After the parade, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be available to take free photos at the Community Christmas tree, located at the Town Square/Veterans Memorial on Apple Street.