St. Francis Plaza lights up with food, fun and holiday cheer

Elida Jiménez, Marlene Rodriguez, Damiany Hernandez and Mya Rodriguez helped Santa pass out holiday treats at Friday’s annual Christmas parade. Photo by Sam Karas.

PRESIDIO — Last Friday, Presidio families lined O’Reilly Street for the annual Christmas parade and tree lighting ceremony, hosted by the City of Presidio and an army of volunteers. Creative floats from an array of local businesses and agencies cruised down the city’s main drag toward St. Francis Plaza, where tamales, cookies and other holiday treats were waiting for the hungry crowd. 

In the dark, it was difficult to gauge exactly how many people attended, but the city could definitively say there were more people than ever before based on a handy metric: food. There were 13 tables of food for community members to enjoy — though the treats didn’t last long. “I don’t think anyone was counting exactly, but we ran out of food faster than previous years,” said City Administrator Pablo Rodriguez. 

Santa could also attest to the large crowds, after waving and throwing out candy from his parade float. He then sat down in a booth for photos with Presidio kids, who waited patiently in a line that snaked around the block for around three hours. “I heard he liked it, but pobrecito — he was pretty tired,” said Municipal Judge Vivi Cataño.

This year’s event marked the second time that Cataño organized the parade, with help from Interim Chief Damian Hernandez of the Presidio Police Department. Jackie Gonzales of Presidio City Hall helped coordinate the festive decorations, and the Presidio Water and Sewer Department made sure the event went off without a hitch. 

Rodriguez stressed that these were just a few of the many city employees and private citizens who helped bring the event to life. “Behind the scenes, there were a lot of people involved,” he said. “There’s a lot of heroes that will go unnoticed, but they were there.” 

At Tuesday’s city council meeting, Presidio city leaders talked about ways to make the event even bigger and better next year. Cataño said she would like to see the parade grow with more lights and more participants — Mayor John Ferguson agreed, suggesting that maybe there should be a contest for best float to encourage more people to participate. “Maybe it will give them an incentive,” he said. 

Cataño said that it was an honor and a privilege to take the lead on organizing an event that the community looks forward to every year. She hoped that all the preparation would create family memories that will last long after the Christmas season has come and gone. “You can hear the kids screaming and yelling — it’s emotional, knowing that all the kids are happy,” she said.