Submitted by Jeff Nath
My family has been involved in the Anaheim Halloween parade since 1956, the year my Opa (Dutch for grandfather) Bill Visser founded Visser’s Florist and Greenhouses after emigrating here from Holland. His first entry was a wheelbarrow full of flowers with his daughter Lynda sitting amongst them, with his wife Joan walking beside him with two buckets of flowers attached to a wooden stick across her back.
As the years went on, and he got more prominent in the Los Angeles flower market, he started buying old floats from the Rose Parade in Pasadena, and hauled them to Anaheim to repurpose them and create his own floats for the Halloween Parade.
Back then, the Anaheim Halloween Parade was a very big deal, with over 1 million people tuning in to watch it on TV. My Opa always made the most over-the-top floats, almost always from fresh flowers, just like the Rose Parade. He won several “Grand Prize” entries through the years, when they used to give out awards for parade entries.
He also won several awards for best costumes and for his window displays at the flower shop, as the parade used to travel down Center Street (now Lincoln Ave.) right in front of the shop, and they used to encourage businesses to decorate their store fronts and dress up.
Fun fact about that, I took a flying witch off of one of those old trophies and made it into a hood ornament for my tractor for the parade!
My mother Lynda has many great memories of participating in the parade and building floats with her dad. Her favorite memory was when her and her sister Lori dressed up as Cinderella on my grandfather’s “princess float”.
My dad’s favorite memory was when he decorated my Opa’s old corsair with a huge arch made of fresh flowers and drove 1983 Miss America through the parade.
My brother’s favorite story is how he won the kid costume contest at Pearson Park, dressed up as a farmer riding our old John Deer Tractor peddle car. I guess that’s where I got my love of John Deere.
I remember helping build a float when they revived the parade; we decorated an old horse drawn wagon full of sunflowers, and we all dressed up like Scarecrows with straw coming out of our shirts, me and my brother and our cousins. Good family fun.
A few years ago a group of residents led by Jody Daily got together and started making new floats. They needed a place to build and store stuff so I offered my garage/ shop where they started reviving the parade by building new floats and getting more residents involved. Soon after the city stepped up and secured the group a more permanent location, and I’ve been involved ever since, driving my old 1937 John Deere Model H tractor, pulling the flying witch. The float is inspired by an old entry from the SQR store.
Anyways, my daughter London was really excited about being the flying witch this year, but I was a bit nervous about it to be honest ‘cause she’s only 8. Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise that we get to wait one more year.
My son Kasey loves riding on the back of the float with his cousin and his friends, goofing off with them and trying to scare the kids in the crowd with his ferocious roars, hehe.
So now we participate in the parade every year, and my kids get to invite their cousins and friends from the neighborhood to ride on the back of the float we build every year, just like I did and just like my mom did, and I get a real kick out of it just like my Dad and my Opa did. My kids are 4th generation Anaheimers, and participating in the Halloween parade is a way of honoring our city, keeping a family tradition alive, and staying involved in our community. It is truly a time honored tradition for the Visser/Nath family.