Thursday, October 11, 2007

Mother Goose Parade is calling on Hollywood for some sparkle

Celebrity sightings are about as rare in El Cajon as a cool breeze in July.

Yet come Nov. 18, this East County city will be teeming with teen sensations and television stars.

The 61-year-old Mother Goose Parade, known more for its storybook character floats and beauty queens than Hollywood glitz and glamour, is getting an extreme makeover.

Among the bevy of young stars scheduled to perform or appear are Corbin Bleu of “High School Musical”; singer Jesse McCartney; “American Idol” runner-up Katharine McPhee; and Mario Lopez from “Dancing with the Stars.”

Don't recognize those names? There's also Erik Estrada; bounty hunter Duane “Dog” Chapman; and one-time matinee idol Robert Wagner. John Schneider can claim cross-appeal as the blond Duke of Hazzard and recent “Smallville” star.

“People are going to lose their minds,” said Steven Gerard, a Los Angeles talent broker who has been working for months to lock in celebrities for the event.

So what's El Cajon's sudden draw after years of only attracting the occasional boldface name?

Thank Jillian Hanson-Cox, an El Cajon councilwoman and former actress. Hanson-Cox said she wanted to bring back the excitement she remembers feeling as a kid at the parade.

“I know what I liked as a little girl and I stopped seeing that,” Hanson-Cox said. “It just lost its pizazz. It was no fault of the board of directors. The community just got disinterested.”

When Hanson-Cox asked her nieces and nephews what they wanted at the parade, the No. 1 response was “more celebrities.” So she called in a few favors with friends in the entertainment industry.

El Cajon might not be a hub for the Hollywood crowd, but it's only a couple of hours from Los Angeles and celebrities have movies, CDs and TV shows to promote, Gerard said. And frankly, who doesn't love a parade?

“Greg Grunberg from 'Heroes' is bringing his wife and three kids,” Gerard said. “How cool is that? Your kids are riding in a parade with you.”

The famous names caught the attention of students leaving El Cajon Valley High School yesterday. Shown a flier, senior Jean Glaude perked up at the photos of young stars Emily Osment, Drake Bell and Ricky Ullman.

“I always pictured Mother Goose as this little thing parents bring their 3-year-old kid to,” Glaude, 17, said. “I'm impressed. I'm definitely impressed.”

Celebrities won't receive a dime from the nonprofit parade association or the city, Hanson-Cox said, but El Cajon has contributed $10,000 to help subsidize the parade. Gerard is lining up sponsors to pick up costs and fees related to celebrity appearances.

The event's faithful can rest assured that the parade will continue to feature the staples: clowns, giant balloons, horses, marching bands.

And while Mother Goose is in her golden years, she's trying to stay current. This year, the parade has a presence on MySpace and Facebook, and the parade association has launched a sister event – San Diego's Mega Star – to build buzz.

The “American Idol”-style competition was open only to San Diego County residents and the winner, to be announced Oct. 20, will be part of the parade.

El Cajon resident Ruby Morad likes that Wagner and “CSI: Miami” star Eva La Rue are coming to town, but she's more into the animated guest stars: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester the Cat and Tweety Bird.

“We all love our cartoons,” Morad, 42, said. “Too bad they don't have Snagglepuss.”


Mother Goose Parade

When: Nov. 18. Celebrity arrivals 10:30 a.m., parade 12:30 p.m.

Where: Parade begins at Main Street and Magnolia Avenue in El Cajon.


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