LARNED — The annual Larned Christmas Parade is scheduled to step off at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5. This marks the 100th installment of the yearly event hosted by the Larned Area Chamber of Commerce.
In commemoration of the parade’s 100th anniversary, this year’s theme is “Deck the Halls through the Decades: 100 Years of Christmas, 1920 - 2020.” The parade will run through downtown and will be followed by the Community Christmas Tree lighting at the Pawnee County Courthouse lawn at 6 p.m. Parade entries will be accepted through Tuesday, Dec. 1.
Other Christmas festivities include:
• The Downtown December Vendor Fair, also scheduled for Dec. 5 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 418 Broadway.
• The Pawnee County Santa Tour will take place from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 12.
• The 12 Turkeys and Hams Christmas Giveaway is slated for Dec. 4, 11 and 18.
• Children are invited to write their letters to Santa Dec. 1-18. Letters may be dropped off at the Chamber’s North Pole mailbox at 502 Broadway. Participants are encouraged to wear masks and practice social distancing at public venues and stay at home if feeling ill.
“This year has really given us the opportunity to be creative,” said Chamber Director Alexandra Filbert. “We’ve had to think outside the box to come up with fun, safe and creative ways to get our community engaged.”
Filbert, who will be conducting her fourth Larned Christmas parade this year, said the 100th anniversary of the Christmas Parade has generated a lot of excitement, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is a milestone. Last year we really hyped up the 100th parade but then COVID came waltzing in and we had to really amend how we approached putting the parade together.”
She noted that because of safety precautions during the pandemic, parade organizers were able to re-configure the format while maintaining a high level of community involvement.
“A lot of people are involved with this event,” Filbert said. “Because of this, we were able to gather a variety of ideas that all focused on two major components: safety and engagement.”
According to Filbert part of restructuring the parade involves using a format from a previous community event earlier this year. “One of my thoughts was doing a mixture of a reverse parade and use some of the aspects from the Dragging the Gut drive night in March.”
Filbert described the reverse parade as an event where the parade entries are stationary and spectators are able to drive through and observe from a safe distance.
“All of our entries, including decked out floats with their Christmas lights, will be parked along designated parking spots of Main Street and Broadway,” she said. “The spectators will be driving down the streets waving and smiling and hopefully having a great time while staying safe.”
A staple of any Christmas parade is the presence of Santa and Mrs. Claus and the Larned Chamber did not miss a beat. The North Pole couple will be stationed at the Chamber balcony waving to spectators driving by.
Filbert said in a typical year, between 35 and 40 entries are featured in the Christmas Parade.
“There’s really no telling what this year’s entry total will look like until after Dec. 1,” said Filbert. “I think some things that work to our advantage are the fact that 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the parade and that we are changing some things up with the format. I believe people will be very curious to see how this will be pulled off and might be encouraged to join in and participate.”
Filbert added that one example of innovation comes from the Santa Fe Trail Center and Museum. “Although it hasn’t been confirmed, the museum has explored the idea of an exhibit on a float,” said Filbert. “That’s just a fun and creative idea and example of how we can work together to make this annual event succeed.”
When asked what makes the parade such a special occasion every year for Larned citizens, Filbert said it’s the sentiment of the Christmas holiday and the town coming together.
“There’s something nostalgic about parades, especially in small towns,” said Filbert. “I think it appeals to our childhood and the sense of excitement and wonder, the candy and the floats that go with it.”
She added that the parade’s 100th birthday will add even more sentiment to the event.
The parade is traditionally set to take place on the first Saturday of the Month of December according to Filbert.
“Usually preparations begin about two months before the parade,” she said. “After setting the date, we establish a theme. That’s a great time in the planning phase because that’s when businesses, organizations and even individuals start brainstorming ideas for entries.”
Filbert said that switching the event’s format took less than a regular work day. “We had the whole thing re-configured in less than four hours.”
And, “again, having the Dragging the Gut event last spring to lean on, we were able to implement a whole new look for the Christmas Parade that I think our citizens will love.”
Following the parade the annual Community Christmas Tree lighting will take place at the courthouse lawn. “The Community Christmas Tree lighting was a fun event we were able to add into our Christmas Celebration last year,” Filbert said. “We had such a great response from last year that we had to bring it back this year for the 100th celebration.”
While the Larned Area Chamber of Commerce leads the charge in pulling off the parade year after year, Filbert said it takes several groups to insure the event’s success.
“We have so many folks involved with this,” said Filbert. “Our office, the Chamber Ambassadors, volunteers, businesses, organizations and the community as a whole. This is an event for the community, made possible by our community.”