Last week's downtown Christmas festivities came with many of the usual sights -- floats, horses, marching bands and more. But for the first time, it featured a marriage proposal choreographed as part of the parade.
The anticipation began, as it does in most years, with revelers lining either side of Sixth Street an hour before the Los Banos Chamber of Commerce's Downtown Christmas Parade was scheduled to kick off on Dec. 7. In the spirit of the season, many donned Santa hats and rang bells. Others were wrapped in blankets against the evening chill.
Virginia Marez, 65, sat in a folding chair with a blanket across her lap, while husband Jack, 66, stood and sipped a warm drink. They've been to just about every parade in their 30 years in town, and this year they had some skin in the game.
"Well, my granddaughter's in the parade," he said, referring to the marching band.
Marez said he likes to show up early to get a good parking spot and a front-row seat.
Virginia Marez said she enjoys what the parade rings in.
"It's a good start for Christmas," she said.
At the south end of Sixth Street, where the cavalcade began, members of the Rod Runners car club waited for the show to kick off. They'd already prepped their 1939 Chevy, '64 Ford Galaxie 500, 1930 Ford Model A and '58 Chevy pickup.
Betty Gardner, the club treasurer, said she welcomes the chance to decorate and show off her car.
"It's fun," she said.
The parade, themed "It's a Wonderful Life," featured 51 entries, including cheerleaders, decorated dogs and a live band.
Entry 33, however, was part of a parade first. Pacheco High School's Cheer Team performed a routine while "Marry You," from the "Glee" soundtrack, played over the sound system. The performance was part of an elaborate marriage proposal.
Eric Gallichio, 28, of Los Banos appeared from behind the row of cheerleaders and dropped to one knee to propose to 28-year-old Nicole Chandler of Carmel.
"I'm shaking," Chandler said, after the parade. "It doesn't quite feel real yet; I'm ecstatic beyond belief."
Gallichio, who early in the week was promoted to engineer of Fire Station No. 1, said he wanted to make the proposal special.
Video of both the proposal and the parade is below.
Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos enterprise.com.