An old-fashioned parade featuring horse-drawn carriages returns to Lawrence for the 10th consecutive year.
Approximately 300 horses will sweep through downtown for the annual Eldridge Hotel Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade at 11 a.m. Dec. 6. The parade begins at Seventh and Massachusetts streets and ends at 14th and Massachusetts streets.
"There are no bands, there are no marching units ... there is nothing like that," said Rob Phillips, owner of the Eldridge Hotel, 701 Mass. "It is 100 percent horse-drawn vehicles."
More than 100 carriages and wagons of all types and sizes will be donned with Christmas decorations, Phillips said. Somewhere in the parade will be a Santa Claus or two.
Phillips said he expected 10,000 spectators to crowd downtown sidewalks to view the event.
"I think it has become the unofficial start of major Christmas shopping in downtown, because of the large influx of people at that one time," Phillips said.
Phillips said the parade exposed downtown to people who normally would not come. Downtown Lawrence has more than 150 businesses, including individually owned specialty stores, national chains and restaurants.
"I personally know that the people and the participants spend thousands of dollars on that day, purchasing items from our merchants in downtown Lawrence," Phillips said.
Parade participants will come from more than seven states.
"Ten years ago it was extremely difficult to organize the parade," Phillips said. "We were asking people to take off time from their work to come to Lawrence, Kan., to spend $300 to $400 of their own money to be a in a parade -- and if you were from Fort Worth, Texas, what was your motivation for doing that?"
As the event has grown in popularity and business sponsorships have helped defray costs, participants now are drawn solely by their love for horses.
For the past five years Angie Conrad, owner of the My Father's Daughter, 844 Mass., has helped sponsor the parade. She said the parade was very important to the Lawrence community.
"I think it is one of the most wonderful parades in the U.S.A.," Conrad said. "It is what gives Lawrence its unique charm -- and I know because people come into the shop and tell me this."
Conrad said the old-fashioned parade was a huge draw for families who enjoy the sights of the horses.
"And the children get so excited about it -- it is just beautiful," Conrad said.
On Dec. 3, an exhibit of a carriage hitched to six Shire horses will be on display outside the Eldridge Hotel. During the exhibit, Free State Farm will be giving horse-drawn trolley and carriage rides as a fund-raiser for Horses 4 Kids and T.H.R.I.L., Therapeutic Horse Riding Instruction of Lawrence.
On Dec. 5, the Eldridge Hotel will sponsor a Cowboy Christmas Concert, featuring Johnny Western, Barry Ward and Judy Coder, at 7 p.m. at Liberty Hall, 642 Mass.