The Calistoga Lighted Tractor Parade was a merry and bright display of vintage and modern tractors, antique trucks and construction equipment bedecked with dazzling lights. For the past 24 years, thousands of people have gathered on Calistoga’s main street to enjoy the parade, often reserving their spot days prior to the Saturday night show. With the spectators lining the street and the week long rains slowing to a gentle shower at show time, the 2019 parade began!
The Calistoga Lighted Tractor Parade is the ultimate small-town holiday celebration of our agricultural heritage and with that in mind, our judges, Congressman Mike Thompson, County Supervisor Diane Dillon, Superintendent Erin Smith-Hagberg, Diane Barrett of Calistoga Spa Hot Springs, Zach Guzik of Up Valley Family Centers selected the following winners on criteria including originality and decorations:
Romeo Vineyards & Cellars won “Best in Show” and “Best Float” with their fabulous “Winter Wonderland” float. The production was overseen by Estate Manager Ricardo Vera who, along with his vineyard crew, created Santa’s sleigh and the Christmas tree which dazzled and sparkled in blue and white! The costumes were designed by General Manager Emma Blacher and true to a 3-year tradition of painting the Romeo elves cheeks a different color each year, this year’s elves were merry and bright in winter wonderland white!
Our “Youth Entry” winner, the Calistoga High School Band, came up with their theme “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!” immediately following the 2018 parade. The students and several helpful parents spent 3 days decorating the float, all overseen by teacher Nina Pedersen. The weather threw a few kinks in the design, but the resourceful students determined that tin foil could be used in place of the silver wrapping paper initially planned. As Mrs. Pedersen proudly stated “the float brought excitement and camaraderie to the Calistoga High School Band and gave the group an experience to last a lifetime-the cooperation and group work, school spirit, working towards a goal through adversity (the weather), playing the music with a lot of heart, and finally winning 1st place.”
Chateau Montelena, the winner of “1960-Present Tractor” category, had not participated in the parade since its inaugural year, 24 years ago! The winery and its grounds inspired the theme which included a blow-up version of the estate’s iconic swans and large bunches of grapes that gave the float height. The design committee included Joe Beck (also on Santa duty), Britt Kelleher and Eliseo Jimenez along with owner Bo Barrett and Director of Hospitality, George Blanckensee as well as Jeanne Jesse of Lake Shore Art Studio. The three-dimensional float included a blow-up pool for the swans and a gondola that protected Santa and the elves as well as their sound system.
First place for “Pre-1960 Tractor” was awarded to Wolleson Vineyards for its 435 John Deere, a tractor built in 1959 and just 3 months of 1960. A rare tractor, this model is the only one made with a General Motors two-cylinder engine, in the manner similar to the GM heavy truck cylinder Detroit diesel. Charlie Wolleson, who drove his tractor in the parade, is a vast collector and has more than 30 vintage tractors, some dating back to the 1940’s.
Spreading holiday cheer with “Santa’s Helpers” was the inspiration behind the Calistoga Post Office entry, the winner for “1960-Present Utility Vehicle or Truck”. Carrier Charlie Pelley and associate Lori Cantrell oversaw decorations which included Lori’s stunning handmade costume. Strongly encouraged to participate by families and children along Charlie’s mail route, the team worked quickly once the holiday mail deliveries had been made. Unfortunately, the handmade gingerbread men, decorated by each staff member didn’t make the float due to the rain but are currently displayed in the post office through the holidays. Make sure you congratulate the staff when you stop in to mail your holiday parcels!
The stories of collaboration, community, town spirit and the enthusiasm for the Calistoga Lighted Tractor Parade through the stormy conditions are a testament to the special place that is Calistoga.