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COUNTYWIDE : Big Crowd Expected for Today’s Parade

Looming above Broadway in downtown Santa Ana, gigantic helium-filled balloons portraying popular cartoon characters will bob to the beat of marching bands today before tens of thousands of people expected at the annual Times Orange County Holiday Parade.

Themed “Celebrate the Wonders of Our Planet,” the parade will begin at 10:30 a.m. and include dozens of floats, high school marching bands and skyscraping, 70-foot-tall Tom and Jerry, Felix the Cat and Popeye balloons. George Takei, who played Mr. Sulu in the “Star Trek” TV series and six movies, will appear as grand marshal.

City Councilwoman Patricia A. McGuigan, who will ride in the parade, as she has since its inception seven years ago, said it “gives the community a sense of pride to have an event like this in the city.”

Also, the parade will show off Santa Ana at its best to visitors, especially “the enthusiasm of the people, the families,” she said. “It’s always great to be recognized beyond our borders.”

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The parade will include 6,000 participants, including 32 of the Southland’s top marching bands and bands from Northern California, Arizona and New Orleans. The Long Beach Mounted Police will appear for their sixth year, showing off equestrian skills. Snoopy, from Knott’s Berry Farm, will tour the route atop a stagecoach, while Mickey Mouse will head an entourage from Disneyland.

Among the dozens of decorated floats will be one entitled, “G’Day, Mate,” with a 25-foot-tall kangaroo and his koala bear and kiwi bird friends. It is decorated with dock weed, mustard seed, eucalyptus bark and Spanish moss.

Parade spokesman Art Echternacht said police expect many more spectators than the 75,000 people of last year. Perhaps 1 million more are expected to watch the telecast on KCAL Channel 9.

Although he said the parade will probably be one of the city’s biggest, Echternacht added that traffic and policing problems it will generate should be “pretty routine.”

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As part of the Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots Campaign, the parade’s official charity, spectators are encouraged to bring toy donations for reserve members to pick up for distribution to needy children countywide.

The route starts at Civic Center Drive and Broadway, runs north to 17th Street, then east to Main Street and south to Washington Avenue.

Times Holiday Parade

The annual Times Orange County Holiday Parade will step off from Civic Center Drive; and Broadway in downtown Santa Ana at 10:30 a.m. today. The parade will be televised live on KCAL Channel 9.

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