After a hiatus in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Hollywood Christmas Parade returns Sunday evening, moving through the streets of Tinseltown with its 89th edition to mark an unofficial start to the holiday season — though one still being celebrated in the shadow of COVID.
Sheryl Underwood, a host on the daytime show “The Talk,” will serve as grand marshal of Sunday’s parade, which begins at Hollywood Boulevard and Orange Street. The 3.2-mile, U-shaped route will travel east on Hollywood Boulevard to Vine Street, turn south on Vine to Sunset Boulevard and then head west along Sunset, back to Orange.
The parade, featuring an estimated 5,000 participants, kicks off at 6 p.m. Sunday, with Erik Estrada, Laura McKenzie, Dean Cain, Montel Williams and Elizabeth Stanton returning as hosts.
“For almost a century, the annual Hollywood Christmas Parade has been lifting the spirits of Angelenos from all walks of life,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “After a difficult year and a half, I am excited Angelenos will get to enjoy this parade once again.”
In all, 61 celebrities and VIPS were scheduled to take part, including musicians Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. of The Fifth Dimension, and actors Danny Trejo, Tom Arnold and Lou Ferrigno, as well as Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow from early TV’s “Leave It to Beaver.”
The parade will also feature 11 character balloons — each some four stories high — plus equestrian acts and marching bands, including the U.S. Marine Corps Band out of San Diego; the Mira Costa High School Marching Band and Color Guard from Manhattan Beach; the PAVA World Traditional Korean Band from Los Angeles; the Los Angeles Police Emerald Society Pipes and Drums; and the Los Angeles Catholic Schools Band from Torrance.
In addition, spectators will see 49 movie and TV cars, including “Back to the Future” DeLoreans, the “Ghostbusters” Ecto-1 and “Smokey and the Bandit” Trans-Am; and from TV, the “Munsters” coach, the “Rockford Files” Firebird and the “Magnum, P.I.” Ferrari.
Oh, and the Idaho Potato Truck Tour will bring an 18-wheeler showing off a two-story-tall, two-ton spud.
Of course, the parade will conclude with an appearance by Santa Claus himself, along with his reindeer.
The parade has been held every year since 1928, except from 1942 to 1944 due to World War II — and last year, when it was canceled because of the pandemic.
Officials last week urged spectators to enjoy this year’s return — but to remember to take precautions, as COVID has not gone away.
“After a very difficult 20 months, and that is putting it lightly, for all of us, this weekend, once again, Hollywood will serve as the backdrop to a beloved holiday tradition here in the City of Angels — the 89th annual Hollywood Christmas Parade,” L.A. City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, whose 13th District includes Hollywood, said at a news conference last week.
O’Farrell said the L.A. County Health Department is recommending people wear masks, even outdoors, in crowds larger than 10,000.
“There’s going to be more than 10,000 people watching this parade in- person,” O’Farrell said. “So let’s take those precautions. Folks, we are starting to come out of this pandemic. Let’s come out of it all the way and take the precautions necessary so there are no additional outbreaks.”
In the wake of last week’s tragedy at the Waukesha, Wisconsin, Christmas Parade — where a man drove through the crowd, killing six and injuring more than 60 — the Los Angeles Police Department last week made no official comment when asked about beefed-up security.
But Chief Brian Hale of the L.A. Department of Transportation said the LADOT will deploy over 100 traffic officers and supervisors to support street closures in the parade area.
“Our Special Traffic Operations team has prepared a traffic management plan and will begin implementing road closures and secure the parade route beginning early this Sunday morning,” Hale said.
The Hollywood Christmas Parade was first held in 1928, when it was called the “Santa Claus Lane Parade.” Comedian Joe E. Brown was the first grand marshal in 1932 — a role later filled by luminaries such as Bob Hope, Gene Autry and Jimmy Stewart, among others.
For those who can’t attend in-person Sunday, the festivities will be broadcast as a two-hour special on The CW Network on Friday, Dec. 17 at 8 p.m.