POCATELLO — The annual Night Lights Parade was more than just a gathering of 50 floats with lights, for some it was an opportunity to serve the community.
Terry Cluff and his team of float builders put the final touches on their float in the parking lot of N. Union Pacific Avenue Friday night.
The group from the Bannock County Drug Court put together a collection of holiday items on their float including a Nativity set, angels, a crafted leg of mesh symbolizing the leg-lamp from the movie “A Christmas Story,” a choir and a tree made of presents.
“We didn’t want to go with one simple theme (this year), so we put it all together,” he said.
The more important aspect was the group who put it together.
Cluff said a group of drug court participants, graduates and agents have put a float together for the past five years as a way to give back to the community.
He said the program has participants aid in various activities to socialize and learn to work as a team. This project was in addition to other requirements with a total of 15 people helping build this year’s float.
“We work with others (rather) than drinking or going to the bar,” he said. “It changes one life for another.”
Cory Harris has been helping with drug court’s Night Lights Parade float for the past four years. He graduated in 2008, but still gives of his time.
“It’s because drug court was really good to me,” he said. “It really changed my life.”
The Night Lights Parade has been a tradition for more than 20 years, said Stephanie Palagi, the Old Town Pocatello Inc. executive director.
“It’s the first weekend of the holiday season and we do what we can to make it special for the community,” she said.
She said cold weather may have kept some entrants from participating.
Before the parade began, a decorated 20-foot tree was lit in the Pavilion lawn, N. 420 Main St., for the first time in a long time according to Palagi.
Attendees clapped as Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad and Chubbuck Mayor Steve England yelled, “Light that tree.”
Brandie Whiteside, of Pocatello, collected family and friends to endure the cold weather to witness the lighted floats that made a loop between Main Street and Arthur Avenue.
“It’s just beautifully lit,” Whiteside said.
Her 5-year-old son, Eli, came to see the police vehicles and to hopefully spot a Buzz Lightyear.
“He loves Buzz Lightyear,” Whiteside said.
Cameo Barrett, 15, was with the group to enjoy the beginning of the holiday season.
“We love the Christmas spirit,” she said. “I hope to see amazing floats with lights.”
Blazing Grace Church created a float incorporating a nativity scene with a cross and a star — representing the one the wise men in the Christmas story followed to find the baby Jesus.
Associate Pastor Mike Jablonski said it is the church’s first time being in the Night Lights Parade. The float is a reminder of the reason behind the Christmas season.
“It’s strictly for the spiritual reason we’re celebrating it,” he said. “(Christmas) has been commercialized too long. We need to get back to the (basics).”
Friday night’s activities are just the start of many more to come during the holiday season.