It won't be long before the sounds of hoofbeats and sleigh bells fill the air in downtown Lawrence.
The beloved Lawrence Old Fashioned Christmas Parade - with its long line of stately horses and spirited riders - is set for its 15th run, at 11 a.m. Saturday.
"There is no other parade like it in the United States," said Robin Dunn, owner of Dunn's Landing Hitch-for-Hire in Wellsville and a veteran to the parade. "It's very special."
Organizers anticipate about 100 entries - horses from Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and other Midwestern states will parade alongside stagecoaches, wagons, carts and other modes of travel that harken back to days of yore.
"What we like to do is get people in the spirit of the holidays in an atmosphere that's old-fashioned - hence the name," said Jana Dobbs, community bank president at CornerBank, the event's primary sponsor. "There's nowhere else besides this parade where you can see this quality of horses and rigs free."
At the front of this year's parade will be a six-horse hitch of champion Clydesdales that will arrive in Lawrence fresh from an appearance at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. The horses' visit is supported by Express Personnel Services.
About 350 horses are expected to be on display in this year's parade, as well as Amish carriages and other unique sights.
Dobbs said the event is meant to be unlike any other - an experience that simply couldn't be matched by any other horse-drawn parade in the state.
"What we were really striving for this year is to maintain and enhance the prestige of being invited to participate in the parade," she said. "Only the most unique and the most beautiful entries will be allowed to enter."
The parade will begin at Seventh and Massachusetts streets and travel past the courthouse to 12th Street.
Dobbs will emcee the parade, along with Bruce Schwyhart, CornerBank President/CEO, Phil Bradley of the Kansas Licensed Beverage Association, Marty Kennedy of Kennedy Glass, and Hank Booth and Kim Murphree of KLWN.
The parade was founded in 1993 by Rob Phillips, former owner of the Eldridge Hotel.
The parade is presented by the Lawrence Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade LLC. CornerBank is the company's managing partner. Other members are Downtown Lawrence Inc., Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, Zarco 66, Eldridge Hotel, The World Company, Kennedy Glass Inc., Bradley Farms and Schumm Foods. Organizers typically gather $100 donations from more than 80 sponsors.
The funds support lodging and a dinner at the Knights of Columbus for parade participants.
But Dobbs said it's the distinction of having a place in the parade that draws participants.
Parade organizers send out invitations each year. Interested parties then apply and must be accepted to participate.
Dunn said it's the only parade she does for free.
"I do two things for free," she said. "I deliver the governor's Christmas tree, and I do the Lawrence Christmas parade."
The parade will be broadcast on Sunflower Broadband Channel 6 and will be available on demand.