Thousands Donate Toys and Celebrate at Chuy’s Christmas Parade

Amanda Gonzalez and her family stood on their tippy-toes to see the group of dancers twirling their way down Congress Avenue.

Batman ran by, as kids screamed for his attention. Then, Wonderwoman strode by the Gonzalez family before Spiderman came sprinting through shooting silly string into the crowd.

Now in its 26th year, Chuy’s Children Giving to Children Christmas Parade drew thousands to downtown Austin along Congress Avenue. Colorful floats, thumping marching bands and huge inflated cartoon characters filled the streets.

Then, simple white pickup trucks stopped. Hundreds of kids ran into the street with arms full of toys and gave them away — an early gift for other kids who are less fortunate. It’s a fun way to encourage generosity in the lead up to the Christmas season.

“We’ve been doing this for at least five years,” Amanda Gonzalez said. “It’s something we look forward to every year. The kids know it’s for other kids who aren’t as fortunate as they are.”

Her 11-year-old son, Arturo, along with his 8-year-old sister, Jilliana and a friend all carried presents out to the donation trucks, including a Spiderman toy set and a Barbie doll kit.

The parade got started when Chuy’s restaurant co-owner Mike Young and the KLBJ FM radio station started gathering gifts for the Operation Blue Santa Program at the restaurant back in 1987.

It quickly turned into a parade — and then a tradition.

Media and corporate sponsorships, paired with all the toy donations, raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for Central Texas families in need.

The parade featured dozens of Cheer Station cheerleaders dancing and dancers and drummers from Kazamba in San Antonio. Giant inflated versions of Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster, Strawberry Shortcake, Scoobie-Doo and polar bears were also featured in the hour-long parade.

Austin’s fire department and emergency services showed off their sirens and lights for the kids. Zach Theater’s pre-professional group danced and shook gift boxes. A float full of Curious George enthusiasts waved as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles strutted down the road.

And, of course, it wouldn’t be Chuy’s Christmas Parade without Elvis, the Grinch and Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus.