Every December for the past 18 years, the small town of Calistoga has rolled out tractors, flatbed trailers and farm equipment, decked them out with Christmas lights, and held a parade downtown.
That light now has been seen around the planet, with none other than the website for Cond?Nast Traveler magazine listing the annual Calistoga Lighted Tractor Parade as one of world's eight best "over the top" Christmas Parades.
"I think Cond?Nast is a very smart publication," said Calistoga Mayor Chris Canning, who doubles as executive director of the Calistoga Chamber of Commerce.
"Calistoga is a town of 5,100 people, and this year we had 8,000 in attendance at the parade," which was held Dec. 7, Canning said. "It was the whole town, and then some."
As listed on the magazine's web site, Calistoga ranked second, after Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. Runners-up ranged from New Zealand to Ecuador, and included a costumed procession in Austria and a boat parade in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
"We were looking for a mix of big cities and smaller towns with creative holiday celebrations. Calistoga is already one of our readers' favorite destinations, so the tractor parade was a perfect fit for the story," said Molly Fergus, associate web editor for Cond?Nast Traveler.
Here's how Cond?Nast online put it: "Trade in elaborate big city parade hoopla for quirky small town charm at Calistoga's 18th Annual Lighted Tractor Parade. Tucked into the heart of Napa Valley, this Christmas parade celebrates the area's agricultural heritage with a procession of decorated and illuminated tractors, antique trucks and other assorted farm equipment, down Calistoga's main street."
Calistoga has had an annual Christmas bazaar for the past 44 years, but the town's holiday event took on a new life 18 years ago, when several locals suggested a night parade.
"The idea came out of my brain," said Calistoga architect and developer Christopher Layton, who came up with the original concept for the parade and worked with the team that put on the first event.
"It started as a bit of a lark, saying let's say thank you to the real workers of Napa Valley — the tractors. Let's put lights on them, line 'em up on the main street of town," Layton said.
The parade down Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga's main street, has become an attraction for out-of-town visitors, but has retained its smalltown character, he explained.
"It's a real hometown deal," Layton said. "It brings out the best in adults and children."
Parade day is the most lucrative of the whole year for local bars, restaurants and stores, Canning said.
"The original parade started with something like 11 tractors, and this year we have 55 entries. We leave it to the imagination of the people, and every year, it amazes me how creative people get," he said.
"We've had people build Santa's village, or the Grinch's village, on a flatbed trailer towed by a tractor," he said.
But the parade stays true to its smalltown roots, including high school cheerleaders and Pee Wee league football players, Canning said.
"Susie's Bar has an entry with Santa in the back, enjoying a cocktail of choice," he added.
(You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)