An ever-growing cavalry will be participating in the second annual Urbana Holiday Horse Parade at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 25, to make sure Santa arrives in style to his temporary home at Santa Land inside the Gloria Theatre, 216 S. Main St.
The event is sponsored by the Monument Square District, with help from local horse enthusiasts. Organizers are seeing an increase in interest in the parade from not only participants, but the community in general.
Parade co-organizer and Urbana resident Jeretta Aldridge said the inaugural event had some rough patches when it came to getting everyone initially on board, but following the atmosphere it created and the amount of people it brought to the downtown area in year one, there is talk of the parade becoming an Urbana tradition.
“Everyone throughout the community is pulling together to make this a great thing for the city not only this year, but for years to come,” Aldridge said. “We are hoping the weather cooperates this year because we’ve got a fun time planned for everyone.”
Last year’s parade had 23 lighted units (wagons, carriages, carts, etc.) featuring 78 horses and countless riders. As of Nov. 16, 13 units containing a total of approximately 30 horses have signed on to participate on Nov. 25.
“The numbers continue to grow as we get closer,” said Aldridge, who added parade participants will often engage in a friendly contest to see who can sport the most Christmas lights as people are encouraged to decorate themselves, their horses and their hitches in as many lights as possible.
As it did in 2015, the horse 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.
Unlike last year, however, the city will prohibit parking on Scioto Street from East Lawn Avenue to Monument Square between 3 and 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 25. Some parking spots in Monument Square will be blocked off, while the various intersections along Scioto Street will be closed to traffic during the parade.
“We have several larger rigs participating this year that will require additional room to pass each other on Scioto Street,” Aldridge said.
Those planning to participate in the horse parade are asked to arrive between 3 and 5 p.m. to register. The staging area will be located in the parking lot on the west side of CVS along Jefferson Avenue. Lineup will begin promptly at 6 p.m.
As was the case a year ago, Janice Clark will serve as grand marshal. Her late husband, Jim, and Aldridge were the two individuals who dreamed of bringing a holiday horse parade to downtown Urbana.
A night on the town
Along with the horse parade, the Monument Square District has scheduled additional events in hopes of giving eventgoers plenty of reasons for visiting the downtown area on Nov. 25.
To help showcase Legacy Park in the southeast corner of the square, a 15-foot Christmas tree will be lit at 5:30 p.m., which MSD Board Secretary Vicki Deere-Bunnell said the group hopes becomes a yearly downtown tradition.
In addition, street carolers will be performing and various street vendors will be available throughout the downtown area.
The man of the hour – Santa – is expected to arrive by sleigh at the Gloria Theatre around 7 p.m., and he will stay until the last child has a chance to visit with him, said Erin Patton, MSD Santa Land Committee chairperson.
“The Champaign Youth Choir will perform opening night, and refreshments will be served,” she added.
MSD Board President Marcia Bailey said that during the Nov. 25 festivities, a big emphasis is being placed on bringing attention to downtown businesses.
“We are asking retailers to stay open later that evening and also non-retail businesses (offices, banks, insurance, etc.) to offer family-friendly activities, cookies, hot chocolate, etc. during the 3 to 8 p.m. time period to create an environment for folks to spend more time in the downtown and have a variety of things to do,” she said.
Following opening night, Santa Land will operate from 5 to 8 p.m. every Friday and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday through Dec. 23. On Dec. 24, Santa will be available from noon to 2 p.m.
“Santa Land is sponsored by the Monument Square District, and many local businesses came together to refresh the décor and provide prizes for the prize wheel that is being added this year,” Patton said. “Santa Land is another fun and family-friendly event to bring the community out and together to celebrate tradition and the holiday spirit.”
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-508-2304 or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.