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Archive for Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Sponsor rescues holiday parade

CornerBank leads drive to continue downtown tradition

September 28, 2004

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Lawrence's downtown horse-drawn Christmas parade won't be a casualty of the Eldridge Hotel's bankruptcy after all.

Officials with Lawrence-based CornerBank said Monday they had struck a deal with Rob Phillips, the hotel's general manager and the parade's organizer, to continue the event for an 11th year.

The parade will be at 11 a.m. Dec. 4 on Massachusetts Street and is expected to draw about 100 horse-drawn entries.

"It just looked to me like this was just such a great tradition for not only downtown Lawrence but for all of Lawrence, that it would have been a real shame to lose it," said Jim Adams, community bank president for CornerBank, 4621 W. Sixth St.

Exact terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but Adams said the bank had agreed to provide the approximately $5,000 to $10,000 needed to produce the parade. He said the bank would defray some of the cost by seeking sponsorships from area businesses that would have their names displayed on parade entries. Adams estimated the sponsorships would sell for about $200.

Phillips said last week he was giving up on organizing the popular parade, which he founded. In previous years, he sponsored the parade through the Eldridge Hotel as a way to increase holiday business.

But after the downtown hotel filed for bankruptcy protection and was ordered to be sold at auction Oct. 12, Phillips said it made little sense for him to spend the time and money to organize the event.

Under the new deal, Phillips will remain involved as a host, and the name of the parade will be changed to reflect sponsorship by his North Lawrence bed and breakfast business, Free State Farms. The parade will be called the Lawrence Old Fashioned Christmas Parade, Hosted by Free State Farms, Sponsored by CornerBank.

Attempts to reach Phillips for comment Monday were unsuccessful.

Adams said the parade would continue most of its traditions. The event will be limited to horse-drawn entries, and all will be decorated for the holiday season.

"It will really continue to focus on the beauty and pageantry of having all those horse-drawn carriages parade down Massachusetts Street," Adams said.

He said he hoped to raise enough money to have a banquet for participants and sponsors the night before and a breakfast for riders on the morning of the parade.

Downtown retailers are happy the parade will be back for another year, said Maria Martin, executive director of Downtown Lawrence Inc.

"We're very pleased because it is just such an inviting event," Martin said. "It invites everyone from the community and lots from outside the community to watch the parade and then stay and do a little shopping."

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