Ford Holiday River Parade started with humble beginnings

Parade kicks off holiday season Friday

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio businessman Bob Buchanan has seen the famous holiday lights on the River Walk develop throughout the years.

"Thanksgiving, Christmas, there was no one at the River Walk. It was dead. This brought people down," Buchanan said.

According to the San Antonio River Walk Association, the first river lighting ceremony took place on Nov. 28, 1975.

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Years later, the Paseo Del Rio Association took over the lights and continued the tradition. 

Buchanan, who was on the association board, said there were learning curves along the way.

"They did the imaginary switch. Nothing happened. Because of course, it takes a while for energy to boost. And when they came on, 'Ooh, it was magical,'" Buchanan said.

These days, the newly-designed river barges will showcase a new look as they snake their way down the river with a backdrop that includes more than 100,000 lights draping trees.

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"In the summer, we get them ready and organized and test all the bulbs. And then we hand them over to the city, and they start hanging them in September," San Antonio River Walk Association executive director Maggie Thompson said. 

This year's theme for Friday's parade is Christmas at the Movies, which will showcase famous holiday films.

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"Everyone's here to have a good time, to have fun and to enjoy life. And that's what the river is about," Buchanan said.