By Woodrow Polston
On Saturday evening, the citizens of Vandalia experienced their first lighted Christmas parade, which traveled from the fairgrounds all the way down Main Street.
Although some of the onlookers seemed to recall Christmas parades from years gone by, no one was certain that there had ever been a lighted one before. And had there been one of this magnitude in the past, someone would surely have remembered it. There were more than 40 participants involved in the parade, which included lighted trucks, tractors, floats, cars, horses, and many other vehicles.
“There were literally no official sponsors for this parade,” said Amy Kuda, who organized the event. “About a month ago, I thought it would be a great idea to have a lighted Christmas parade this year, so I put the word out to local farmers and businesses and people started contacting me and getting involved. The turnout looks like it will be amazing, even despite the fact that Perry, Mo., is having its parade this evening,” she added.
As the participants were lining up at the fairgrounds, people were beginning to line the streets downtown. Parking lots were filling up along Main Street, so people could find a good place to watch the parade from the warmth of their vehicles. But the cold temperature didn’t stop the many onlookers who came out to view the floats from the sidewalks.
“These Christmas parade events are really starting to gain popularity,” said Alan Winders, presiding commissioner of Audrain County. “It’s a bit cold, but it could be worse. It could be 20 degrees and blowing snow right now,” he added. On the corner of State St. and Main, hot cocoa was being served along with a variety of cookies, courtesy of Michael and Audra Evans. Representatives from Carquest were also serving hot cocoa. There was a steady line of people at their table, who were appreciative of the warm drinks and snacks.
“I am glad that there are tables set up with drinks and snacks, it will help to compensate for the lack of candy and treats being thrown from the participant’s floats,” said Kuda. “FFA will be handing out glow sticks, Gibson farms will be giving away balloons and there are some other items that participants will be handing out during the parade as well,” added Kuda.
After the well-lit floats and vehicles made their way out of the fairgrounds, it took the parade nearly a full hour to complete the route.
The parade was also being broadcast live on Facebook, allowing more than 1,000 viewers to experience the holiday cheer. Numerous viewers commented that they were enjoying the broadcast of the parade from other states, including, Illinois, Tennessee, Texas and Florida.
“The participants have come up with some really good ideas for their floats,” said Jamie Day, as he prepared to get in the parade line. “I’m sure that next year will be even bigger and better, with a little more time to plan and prepare for it. But this is going to be really good tonight. We have a lot of different lights and sirens that we will be using in this parade,” he added.
There were a wide variety of lighted trucks and tractors on display, along with several ambulances, fire trucks and law enforcement vehicles. The hope is for this to become an annual event. And it is likely, as many people were already anxiously planning, and anticipating it next year.