For the Parade of Lights last year, Gainesville streets were filled with parade watchers and participants. Chamber of Commerce President Dana Herr estimated the crowd numbered somewhere close to 5,000 in 2006.

This year the estimate was higher.

The weather was unseasonably warm as residents gathered on street corners and in cars parked along California Street to take in the holiday parade.

The procession started on California Street at the Santa Fe depot and ended at Chestnut Street.

Local civic groups, churches and businesses took part in the parade.

Glenda White of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce said she was thrilled with the parade’s outcome, especially the large numbers who attended.

“It looked like the most people we’ve ever had at the parade,” White said Monday morning.

Grown-ups and children alike packed California Street before the parade, vying for the “best” position from which to watch the parade.

She noted the Chamber of Commerce received 61 entrants from various county and city groups and organizations.

At 6 p.m. sharp, the VFW Post No. 1922 color guard and the VFW Post No. 1922 color guard ladies auxiliary started the turn from the Santa Fe depot onto California Street, marking the beginning of the parade.

For the next hour, the throngs of children and adults lining California Street watched the lighted floats pass by.

Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce executive director John Broyles said the winners in each category include:

• The Callisburg High School Wildcat marching band for Best Band entry.

• Cheetah Cheer for Best Dance/Drill Team entry.

• Impact Energy Services for Best Industry or Business entry.

• Saint Mary’s Catholic Church for Best Float.

• Twomar Ranch for Best Horse-drawn entry.

• Prairie Grove Baptist Church for Best Overall entry.

The Chamber is, apparently, already looking forward to next year’s parade.

Broyles said the Chamber is considering adding a brief mixer after the parade during which winners would be announced and hot chocolate served. The organization is thinking of holding the after-event at the Santa Fe depot.

Broyles said the parade is not a money-maker for the chamber, and the organization does not charge entry fees for participation in the event.

Member businesses and the chamber board should get the credit for much of the work that goes into planning and putting on the parade, he added.

Businesses, he said, donated items as appreciation gifts for the judges, grand marshall and emcee.

Purdy Embroidery personalized each of the gift stockings.

“This was the largest number of entries we’ve ever had. The board helped organize the line-up. It’s a task, and this year was just about as smooth as could ever be expected,” Broyles said.

He said he is also grateful to member businesses and to all those who turned out for the parade.

Judge John Roane was one of three local government officials who judged the entries.

“It was a very enjoyable time for all of us who watched the parade, especially the judges. It was obvious that several organizations went to a lot of trouble to demonstrate their business or their organization,” Roane said.

Other judges were District Judge Janelle Haverkamp and Municipal Judge Chris Cypert.

This was Roane’s first year to judge the annual Parade of Lights.

“I’ve done things like this before, but never this particular event. It was a lot of fun. I’d like to do it again,” Roane said of his experience.

Krista Brewer was Grand Marshall for the parade. She was accompanied by singers Carl Reiter and Andrea Offner.

Radio personality Tom Carson emceed the event.

Broyles said the theme for this year’s parade was “A traditional Christmas.”