When Santa makes his way into downtown Urbana this holiday season, he will do so with a cavalry of lighted horse-drawn carriages, hitches and horseback riders leading his way.
The inaugural Urbana All Horse Christmas Parade will accompany Santa down Scioto Street beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 27.
“This parade is something that was born five years ago,” said parade co-organizer and Urbana resident Jeretta Aldridge. “Jim Clark and I always participated in the city of Greenville’s holiday horse parade. We would talk about how pretty it would be to have a similar parade travel down Scioto Street and how great it would be to bring people into downtown Urbana.
“It’s taken us several years to get everyone on board and, unfortunately, Jim became ill and passed earlier this year, so we (fellow Champaign County resident Molly Kerns) are doing this parade in his honor,” Aldridge added.
The parade, which will start at the intersection of Patrick Avenue and Water Street, will make its way down Patrick Avenue, turn left onto Scioto Street, circle in front of the Man on the Monument and make its way back down Scioto Street to the starting point.
Clark’s widow, Janice Clark, will be the grand marshal and will ride in a wagon pulled by her late husband’s team of Haflingers.
As of Thursday, Aldridge said the parade, emceed by Richard Ebert, will feature at least 22 lighted hitches and between 40 to 50 riders.
“For those who have never seen a lighted horse parade like the ones in Greenville and Lebanon, it’s really something,” Aldridge said. “A lot of the participants go all out when it comes to decorating with lights.”
Being that it’s the first year for the horse parade in Urbana, Aldridge said, individuals wanting to show their horses in the parade can register between 3 and 5 p.m. the day of the event in the parking lot facing Jefferson Avenue behind Taco Bell. The parking lot will also serve as the staging area for all hitches, while all horseback riders are asked to report to Patrick Plaza near Bodey Circle. Participants are asked to be in their respective staging areas by 5 p.m. with line-up to begin at 5:30 p.m.
“I’m hoping the horse parade is the start of something that grows bigger every year,” Aldridge said.
The first block of every side street intersecting Scioto Street will be blocked off from Patrick Avenue to Monument Square for the parade. Parking on the northeast and southeast corners of Monument Square will be prohibited beginning a few hours prior to the parade.
Santa’s coming to town
After making his way through the parade route accompanied by 2015 Champaign County Fair Queen Heather Lowry and winners of the Santa Trolley Contest, Santa is scheduled to be dropped off in his horse-drawn trolley at approximately 7 p.m. at Santa Land – his downtown Urbana home for the holiday season – located in the lobby of the Gloria Theatre, 216 S. Main St.
“This tradition is looked forward to by everyone,” said Pam Bowshier, Monument Square District Board member and Santa Land chairperson. “What I look forward to most is the majestic setting that the Gloria lends to Santa Land, the happy faces of the kids, the excitement of the trolley making its way through town as Santa waves to the crowd, and this year’s first holiday horse parade.”
The festivities surrounding Saint Nick’s arrival in Urbana, known as Santa’s Homecoming, will take place all evening until every child in attendance gets a chance to visit with Santa.
During the event, the Champaign County Youth Choir is scheduled to perform on stage in the theater at 7 p.m., and popcorn and hot chocolate will be available at the concession stand compliments of the GrandWorks Foundation and The Depot Coffee House.
“There will also be mini grab-and-go sandwiches for anyone who is hungry from the festivities,” Bowshier said. “As always, all kids will get candy canes as they enter the theater.”
Santa Land will be open through Dec. 19 on Fridays from 5 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. During the hours of operation, children are invited to hand-deliver their letters to Santa, and parents are invited to take pictures of their children with Santa.
“Last year was our very first time to have an indoor Santa Land, courtesy of GrandWorks and the Gloria Theatre,” Bowshier said. “We saw record-breaking crowds, lots of happy people not having to stand out in the cold, lots of curious onlookers visiting the theater and a whole lot of walks down memory lane as people stood in line waiting for Santa while telling their kids and grandchildren about the early days of the theater.
“The response was amazing for our first year at the Gloria, and Monument Square District feels fortunate to be welcomed back for another year,” she added.
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.