About the Lawrence Christmas Parade
What began in 1993 as one man’s idea to gather friends and spotlight the historic Eldridge Hotel in downtown Lawrence has grown to a nationally recognized all horse power event to celebrate the beginning of the holiday season. From a humble beginning of 21 horse-drawn entries, the parade has hosted as many as 70 horse-powered vehicles paying tribute to the contribution of the horse in our transportation heritage.
The parade is managed by a group of Lawrence citizens and dedicated volunteers who spend many hours each year to organize, prepare accommodations, extend our hospitality and insure the safety of both entrants and spectators. It would take many pages to list all those who have contributed their time and energy over the years but they haven’t done it for recognition, only for love of the event. Sponsorships from local businesses, individuals and support from the City of Lawrence have provided the significant funding necessary for an event of this magnitude.
The Lawrence Old Fashioned Christmas Parade is all about memories, those from the past and hopefully creating new ones to carry home with us. Our goal is to take you back to a previous time, perhaps more simple in some ways but certainly more difficult in others. Horses made so many things possible for us in the past and it continues to amaze that something so large is willing to accept us as the leader and allow us to control their lives. Horses teach us so much about life; it’s not what’s in it for you but what you have to give that yields the greatest rewards. For those of us who feel the attraction and connection to horses, it lasts a lifetime and we all hope to have at least one with us forever.
From a humble beginning in 1993 with 21 horse-drawn vehicles traveling down Massachusetts, the Lawrence Christmas Parade has grown to a major event in the Midwest with as many as 85 entries in recent years. Originally named “The Eldridge Hotel Old Fashioned Christmas Parade,” this event was the dream of Robert W. Phillips, a local businessman and General Manager of the newly renovated Eldridge Hotel. This hotel plays a significant role in Lawrence and Kansas history, having twice been burned to the ground and twice rising from the ashes.
As news of this event spread, the number of entries increased each year and the crowds who came to watch grew dramatically, along with the expenses involved to support it. Fortunately, several local business people “grabbed the reins” and recruited other businesses to sponsor an entry and display a banner which allowed the parade to continue.
When the Eldridge Hotel was sold in 2004, another business stepped in and took the reins. Recognizing the reputation of this parade and the value to the city of Lawrence, CornerBank became the new corporate sponsor and the parade was renamed “The Lawrence Old Fashioned Christmas Parade.” With entries traveling from as far away as Texas, Minnesota, North Dakota and Arizona, the parade had acquired national recognition and demanded a tremendous amount of resources to support. CornerBank generously provided these and the tradition continued. When the only thing certain is change, the sale of CornerBank in 2009 required new leadership for the parade and several local businesses and volunteers stepped up to the challenge. Formed in 2007 by CornerBank, The Lawrence Old Fashioned Christmas Parade LLC, is now under the direction of Kennedy Glass Inc. and Bradley Farms as general managers. Other members are the Chamber of Commerce of Lawrence, KS, Downtown Lawrence, Eldridge Hotel Partners LLC, Dunn’s Landing and Bob Schumm.
With funding a major concern, fate stepped in and provided the perfect partner for The Lawrence Christmas Parade. The Lawrence branch of Wells Fargo Advisors, a subsidiary of Wells Fargo & Company founded in 1852, became the new corporate sponsor in 2009. A better company to join in a celebration of our heritage could not have been found and the official Wells Fargo Stagecoach traveled down Massachusetts St. for 4 consecutive parades. When a new direction caused Wells Fargo Advisors to step down, an anonymous donor through the Lawrence Arts Center stepped up and took the reins to keep this tradition going. Along with the City of Lawrence, numerous local businesses and individuals and hundreds of volunteer hours from countless individuals, the Lawrence Old Fashioned Christmas Parade lives on!
Word of this event continues to spread and the number of people watching has grown year after year, numbering upward of 10,000. Although weather is always an unpredictable factor, parade-watchers begin gathering several hours before starting time to settle in, bringing blankets, chairs and even a recliner from home! The excitement is contagious and it’s hard to tell whether the entries or the spectators are having more fun. Traditions are an important part of life and help keep us grounded when things around us are in constant change. May the Lawrence Old Fashioned Christmas Parade continue as a tradition for many more years.