The star of the 14th annual Lawrence Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade will be a 24-year-old Belgian draft horse named Queeny who will be pulling Santa in a white, velvet-seated sleigh.
Queeny will be one of more than 300 horses converging at 11 a.m. Saturday on Massachusetts Street. The parade will begin at Seventh and Massachusetts streets and travel past the Douglas County Courthouse to 12th and Massachusetts streets.
"You can't see anything like this anywhere else. And it's something you don't see every day," said Jana Dobbs, senior vice president at CornerBank, primary sponsor of the event. "It brings back maybe a simpler time at the holidays at a time when you're seeing stories about people getting trampled for video games."
More than 80 sponsors once again will support the event, which costs about $18,000 to $20,000. The expenses include advertising, scaffolding for announcers, sound systems and insurance coverage.
The funds also provide parade participants with a free barbecue dinner Friday, breakfast Saturday and rooms at the Eldridge Hotel. Dobbs said it was important to offer an incentive because of the participants' transportation costs and possible loss of wages from missing work.
"What people don't understand is that the people who bring these horse have a lot of expenses," she said.
One of those is Robin Dunn, who is donating use of her sleigh this year.
She said she enjoys the Lawrence parade because the organizers take special care of its equine nature by stopping cars at intersections, limiting the parade route's length and providing outriders to help direct.
"This is the one parade that is horse-friendly," said Dunn, owner of Dunn's Landing Hitch-for-Hire in Wellsville, which provides horses for events. "And all there is, is horse people around, which makes it really nice."
Dobbs said some downtown businesses will open earlier than the usual 10 a.m. for parade-goers.
"That gives them something to do," she said. "And it gives the merchants an opportunity to reach an audience who they might not otherwise reach."
This year, CornerBank spearheaded formation of Lawrence Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade LLC, which establishes a structure for planning meetings and a more equal distribution of input from its members.
"What we didn't want to have was to just have everything running through the bank and not have any checks and balances in place. An LLC does that for us," Dobbs said.
The Lawrence Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade LLC has members from businesses and organizations such as Downtown Lawrence Inc., Lawrence Chamber of Commerce and Schumm Foods.