Last Saturday marked the first day of autumn, and already people are thinking about the holidays.
This year’s theme of the annual Tahlequah Christmas Parade of Lights will be “A Tahlequah Christmas.” The holiday pageantry is traditionally held on the second Friday of December, but this year the light and float extravaganza will be held on Saturday, Dec. 1 starting at 6 p.m.
The Saturday night scheduling change was made to accommodate other events already on the holiday-event docket, said Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director David Moore.
“To my knowledge, we’ve never done a Christmas parade on a Saturday night. Parades, when I was growing up, were always on Saturday mornings. Then we moved it to Friday nights because of the parade of lights, but because of scheduling with other events in Tahlequah, we needed to move it to Saturday night,” he said. “It was just an open date.”
Deadline for float entries is Tuesday, Nov. 27, and use of historic or noteworthy images of Tahlequah in the design of the float is suggested to support this year’s theme.
“We’re hoping that the floats utilize an iconic Tahlequah image in their float,” said Moore. “[It could be the Cherokee Courthouse], Seminary Hall, or it could be a Tahlequah Tiger float.”
Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce Tourism Director Kate Kelly said float builders just need to close their eyes and think of Tahlequah to generate ideas.
“Iconic images are different to every person, because they’re open to interpretation and their own frame of reference, but certainly some of the symbols that David mentioned are iconic to most people,” she said.
“People have already been calling asking when the parade will be held. ‘What’s the theme? When can I get an entry form? It’s an event that certainly piques the interest of everybody in town, whether they’re participating in the parade or watching it.”
Noted Tahlequah citizen, volunteer, historian and former educator Beth Herrington will be this year’s parade grand marshal, as every child’s holiday hero – Santa Claus – will also be a part of the night’s festivities.
“Speaking of iconic images, you couldn’t throw a rock into a crowd and not hit someone that’s had [Herrington] for a teacher,” said Kelly.
“And I have confirmed with Santa. We always get our bid in early with Santa, because December is his busiest time of the year, and every year he has been able to make it to Tahlequah. We have no doubt he’ll be here again this year. Santa is confirmed.”
Float entries received after Nov. 27 will be charged a late fee, due to the advance time needed to organize entries and other parade logistics, said Moore.
“We would like to have all the entries in a week before the parade,” he said. “[Applications can be picked up in] mid-October. After [the Nov. 27 deadline] you can still enter, but there is a financial penalty. We do that because there’s a lineup that a lot of thought goes into. Then a script is developed for the announcers, and that [Tuesday deadline] gives us three or four days to organize [the event].”
Another holiday affair that may soon become an iconic Tahlequah image is the Snowflake ice skating rink located in Norris Park, said Kelly.
“That was something that’s so interesting about being in that area. Seeing the parade. Seeing the ice rink, and seeing all the lights. It just was a winter wonderland,” she said. “That’s going to be an iconic image for Tahlequah before too long.”
The Snowflake ice skating rink, which will be twice as large as last year’s surface of ice, will begin on Thanksgiving day and run through New Year’s day, said Moore.
“This year, we took some lessons that we learned from last year. We learned last year that Monday and Tuesday are not popular days. So we will, in all likelihood, be dark during those two days,” he said. “Also there will be fewer public sessions, but longer times. You’re going to get a little more bang for your buck this year. The key difference is, last year, we rented the rink. This year, the city is purchasing the rink. The rink was $130,000 and that included [300 pairs of] skates.”
A Zamboni was also purchased to quicken the resurfacing of the 62-foot-by-120-foot ice rink, said Tahlequah Main Street Association Executive Director Drew Haley.
“That’s one reason why the sessions can be longer is that resurfacing the ice will be much better, and the ice will be much better this year,” he said, noting that the ice rink will be made available on Mondays and Tuesdays to private parties or school groups.
General admission for regular sessions will be $10, but advance tickets for $8 will be available for purchase Nov. 1 at the Tahlequah Chamber of Commerce, said Moore.
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