Santa might not be coming to town, Sacramento parade organizer says

Santa and Mrs. Claus wave during the 2013 Santa Parade in Sacramento. An organizer needs $14,000 for a 2014 parade.
Santa and Mrs. Claus wave during the 2013 Santa Parade in Sacramento. An organizer needs $14,000 for a 2014 parade. Sacramento Bee file

It’s gonna take more than being good to ensure an early Sacramento visit from Santa.

For the second time this decade, the organizers of the annual downtown Santa Parade say Santa’s pre-holiday visit to the state Capitol is in jeopardy due to lack of funds.

In 2008, parade organizer Laurie Hensley announced the event was off – only to have Kevin Johnson, the mayor-elect, save the day at the last minute.

This time around, Hensley is turning to Santa’s big helpers in the form of a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign.

The campaign, which is seeking $14,000, went live Friday. While most campaigns on the platform have a month to raise the funds, the Santa Parade has just 11 days. As of 4:30 p.m. Friday, it collected $50 of that goal.

If the campaign is successful, the parade will circle Capitol Park starting at 10 a.m. on Dec. 13.

“We had several years where sponsorships have been harder to find,” Hensley said.

She said the Downtown Plaza had been a significant sponsor, but with many business displaced by arena construction they just weren’t in play this year. She said the event also lost several former sponsors to economic hard times.

“We haven’t had the success in sponsors that we used to have,” she said.

She had hoped to have the fundraiser launched earlier, but found out the process of proving that her cause was legitimate took longer than she expected.

The lack of funds in recent years has affected the quality of the event, Hensley conceded. A tight budget meant the stipend the longtime organizer normally had for marching bands wasn’t available last year. That stipend is budgeted this year, if the campaign is successful. The money will also pay for insurance, restroom rentals, barricades and other needs.

Land Park mom Stephanie Vicuña took her little ones but left unimpressed.

“I was really excited because I actually remembered to go. But I don’t think we stayed for Santa. We just left,” Vicuña said.

She remembers being bewildered by the parade participants which included a Scion auto club and a group of young people dressed in medieval clothing.

“It was just weird,” she said. So when the kids got bored, they left.

One online review was more scathing.

“Worst parade ever! Where are the floats? Where are all of the high school marching bands? Where are the bagpipes?” wrote Joe K on Yelp shortly after the December 2013 event.

Hensley, who has been with the parade for 30 of its 31 years, said the event is at its best when participants take the time to make themed costumes. In its heyday, corporate floats were also decorated, she said.

In 2008, Johnson donated $20,000 left from his privately funded swearing-in celebration to save the event. At that time, Hensley cited the struggling economy.

Hensley said this is her first foray into crowdsourcing and she hopes it will be the ticket to ensuring the event can lure Santa for an early visit.

Call The Bee’s Ed Fletcher, (916) 321-1269. Follow him on Twitter @NewsFletch.

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