Christ­mas Mem­o­ries/Pa­rade

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Contents - Story by BETH BRIGHT

Hot Springs is a city in love with its tra­di­tions and fes­ti­vals that take place year-round, mak­ing it a won­der­ful place to live or visit. On Dec. 9, the 2013 Oak­lawn Ro­tary Club will proudly present its an­nual Christ­mas Pa­rade ap­pro­pri­ately themed “It’s a Won­der­ful Life in Hot Springs, Arkansas,” a tra­di­tion near and dear to the hearts of many res­i­dents. The club, which has been in charge of co­or­di­nat­ing the event since 2005, be­gins plan­ning each year in Au­gust. Ideas for themes start get­ting thrown into the mix, but this year the theme “just stuck,” ac­cord­ing to co­or­di­na­tor Lee Richard­son.

“We had a lot of great ideas, but this one just kept pop­ping back up, and re­ally it makes per­fect sense,” he said. “Once that is de­cided on, peo­ple start get­ting ex­cited, and by the first week of Oc­to­ber we start get­ting en­tries.” The pa­rade al­lows for 85 en­tries each year rang­ing from floats to horses to march­ing bands, and while the event stays true to the spirit of hol­i­day tra­di­tions, each year is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent than the last. “We have some or­ga­ni­za­tions that par­tic­i­pate ev­ery year, and then there’s al­ways a mix of new par­tic­i­pants,” Richard­son said. “The ones who par­tic­i­pate each year get re­ally com­pet­i­tive – in a fun way – with their en­tries. It’s al­ways

fun to put the theme out there and see what peo­ple come up with be­cause we have some very cre­ative peo­ple in this city.” The pa­rade sup­ports sev­eral Gar­land County char­i­ties each year, with a $50 fee for each en­try. In years past, the en­try fee was a case of food to be given to Project Hope Food­bank, how­ever the club found that a mon­e­tary do­na­tion would ben­e­fit the pro­gram bet­ter. “Un­for­tu­nately, some would bring half a case of food or odds and ends that the food­bank didn’t re­ally need,” he said. “But when we started tak­ing a fee and do­nat­ing those pro­ceeds, the food­bank – which knows what it needs to stock its pantry – was bet­ter able to ful­fill its needs.” Be­cause the pa­rade also gives back to the com­mu­nity, it was im­por­tant for the com­mit­tee to choose a grand mar­shal to re­flect that. Terry Wal­lace, long time voice of Oak­lawn Park and well­known mem­ber of the com­mu­nity, will be the grand mar­shal, which is some­thing the com­mit­tee is ex­cited about. “He’s made so many con­tri­bu­tions to the com­mu­nity and he’s very ex­cited to rep­re­sent the pa­rade this year,” Richard­son said. “Of course, we’re ex­cited to have him too.” This year, the club has put to­gether an eas­ier way for new par­tic­i­pants to sub­mit en­tries and to keep in touch with past par­tic­i­pants. “Now they can sub­mit their ap­pli­ca­tion on­line, and this way we can email them next year around this time about par­tic­i­pat­ing again,” Richard­son said. “It’s been re­ally suc­cess­ful so far.”

The in­volve­ment of the city with the pa­rade is some­thing Richard­son said he and the other or­ga­niz­ers find re­mark­able. “Last year the EAST lab at Hot Springs High School filmed the pa­rade, and it got picked up on­line,” he said. “Cor­re­spon­dents in the Sis­ter City pro­gram in Hana­maki got to watch our pa­rade which was re­ally neat.” In the com­ing weeks as the pa­rade draws closer, the ex­cite­ment of the sea­son will take over the city. “Last year we had more floats and march­ing bands than we’ve ever had, and we ex­pect just as much en­thu­si­asm this year,” Richard­son said. “Ev­ery year it’s new and dif­fer­ent all while main­tain­ing that tra­di­tional Christ­mas spirit. That’s re­ally what makes our pa­rade unique.”

Pho­tos by RICHARD RAS­MUSSEN

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