Holiday Happenings 2019: Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade returns for 27th year

photo by: Mike Yoder

A horse from Flat Rock Ranch in Bucyrus pulls a carriage down Massachusetts Street Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, at the 26th annual Lawrence Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade.

There’s no better way to begin the holidays than hearing the clip-clopping of horses in downtown Lawrence.

That’s according to the organizers of the local Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade, which returns this year to celebrate the holiday season for the 27th year in a row.

“We think it’s a neat element for the city,” said Marty Kennedy, a longtime organizer for the parade.

The annual parade will include all sorts of horses trotting down Massachusetts Street to celebrate the holiday season in Lawrence. The horses will take to the streets at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 7.

Although some horses will be ridden, others will pull classic carriages and other conveyances. Many of the horses will be dressed up in garlands, bells and other festive accessories. Kennedy said there will be six new entries in the parade this year, coming from Nebraska, Iowa and Colorado.

“We always have such a great group of (entrants) who come from all over the Midwest,” he said.

Elaine VanDeventer, director of the parade, told the Journal-World in 2018 the event is always well attended, with about 10,000 people lining the street. If the weather is nice, that number can reach up to 25,000, she said.

The event, which began in 1993, originally included 21 entries. In recent years, the count has risen to 85, with many riders bringing more than one horse or mule.

“The most frequent comment from the (horse riders) is how awestruck they are when they turn the corner at Seventh Street and see all the spectators waiting to greet them,” VanDeventer said in 2018. “It makes all the time they spend traveling, bathing horses and decorating their vehicles worthwhile when they see all the smiling faces and the delighted waves from children.”

Some of the entries have become traditions on their own. VanDeventer said the Nicodemus Buffalo Soldiers entry has been participating in the event since the beginning and will return again this year. The purpose of the entry is to educate people on the role that African-Americans played in fighting the Civil War, as well as in settling the western United States.

VanDeventer said the entries in the parade demonstrate how horses contributed to transportation before the invention of the automobile.

“As well as entertainment, (the event) is intended to be educational so people don’t forget how people’s lives used to be,” VanDeventer said. “That’s what we’re hoping to commemorate: the role of the horse in our history and how important they were to us for survival and our daily lives.”


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