Ethan Walz watched in awe from his stroller as the big trucks from his picture books at home — all decked out in Christmas lights — rolled past in the 21st annual lighted trucks parade.
Twenty-one-month-old Ethan spent the parade pointing at the big rigs as they passed and yelling out their names.
“He’s like ‘digger!’ and ‘tractor!’ and ‘fire truck!’,” said Ethan’s mom, Jena Croft.
The festive convoy isn’t just for kids. People of all ages lined the streets of Oak Bay Saturday evening, waving at the trucks covered in twinkling lights.
Michelle Cribbs bought her two kids, because it’s her favourite parade in the region. They made the trip from Brentwood Bay.
Cribbs’s favourite truck is the cement mixer, because it spins around while covered in strings of lights.
Seventy-seven decorated trucks left Ogden Point at 5:45 p.m. to cruise 35 kilometres through the region on their way to an 8:30 p.m. arrival at Western Speedway in Langford. At the track, families enjoyed hot dogs and hot chocolate in exchange for a cash or food donation.
The Island Equipment Owners Association puts on the parade, and all that goes into organizing the event is for a good cause. They collect food and cash donations for local food banks. Last year, nearly 6,000 kilograms of food and $7,000 in cash donations were collected.
The truck drivers spend days preparing their vehicles, stringing up lights, setting up inflatables and building Christmas scenes.
Richard Jones has been driving his dump truck decked out in Vancouver Canucks colours in the convoy for nearly 10 years.
On Friday night, he had friends and family — 14 of them — in his garage in Metchosin helping to attach thousands of lights to the vehicle. On Saturday, another handful of helpers got an early start to get the truck parade-ready.
He took the vehicle off the road for four days to ride in the convoy. That gives him time to get the truck washed and detailed, and hook up all the lights.
He mostly sticks to the same design each year, with strings of white, green and blue lights, a 16-foot hockey stick and festive inflatables of Santa riding a polar bear and Frosty the Snowman.
Jones used to enjoy the parade as a spectator, and when he joined the equipment owner’s association, signing up to drive in the convoy was one of the first things he did. “I thought it was a good way to give back.”
Mark Volk hasn’t missed a parade since his first nearly 20 years ago.
His crew of friends, family and co-workers started working last weekend to put together Santa’s workshop — complete with the jolly man himself — on a trailer pulled behind his gravel truck.
Volk has been towing Santa in his workshop for the last five years, which puts him in second position in the parade.
On Thursday he took the truck off the road to start decorating. He gave up three days of work to participate in the event, which he said is his way of giving back to his community.
He uses duct tape and zap straps to keep strings of lights on the truck, although he said he has lost a few strings over the years.
A handful of friends ride in Santa’s workshop and his 10-year-old son Zack sits up front with him.
“I probably would have retired from this if it wasn’t for him,” he said.
Volk likes the end of the parade at Western Speedway best, when kids climb aboard his trailer to sit on Santa’s knee. He’s got a mailbox onboard — all built by hand — for children to send letters to the North Pole.
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Participants in the capital region’s lighted truck parade were busy Friday washing their vehicles and stringing up lights to get ready for Saturday’s event.
“A lot of the guys are working today and then they’ll decorate all night tonight and tomorrow,” said Wendy Watt, who is organizing the festive convoy. Watt is the manager of Island Equipment Owners Association, which puts on the annual event.
Seventy-eight decorated trucks will leave Ogden Point at 5:45 p.m. and cruise through the region on their way to Western Speedway in Langford. The convoy will arrive about 8:30 p.m. at the speedway, where families can enjoy hot dogs and hot chocolate in exchange for a cash or food donation.
When the trucks stop, children are invited to meet Santa and see the vehicles — many of them 18-wheelers — up close.
Watt said spectators should look out for Canada Post and Thrifty Food trucks, where they can make donations. The event collects donations for local food banks ahead of the event and at several points along the 35-kilometre route. Last year, nearly 6,000 kilograms of food and $7,000 in cash donations were collected.
Organizers estimate the parade will reach Oak Bay Avenue about 6:30 p.m., Yates and Blanshard streets by 7 p.m., Watkiss Way at 7:30 p.m. and Veterans Memorial Parkway at 8 p.m.
Watt cautioned that construction on Dallas Road, a popular spectator spot, has reduced the parking available this year. Clover Point parking lot will not be accessible.