Local businesses and groups paraded down Cypress and Pine streets Tuesday, despite rain and a 30 degree wind chill, as part of KTXS’ 21st annual Christmas Lights Parade.
The temperature may have been ideal for Santa, who appears in the parade every year, but the cold, rainy weather caused numerous groups to drop their floats from the procession. Although conditions threatened to keep townspeople inside, KTXS and the Abilene Downtown Association decided to continue with the parade and brave the rain.
“In the last 20 years, I know we have not canceled or changed the parade,” said Wilma Butman, City Sidewalks committee member.
“Usually cold weather doesn’t deter people from coming; it actually gets them more in the holiday spirit.”
An estimated 15,000-20,000 people have packed the downtown area for the parade in previous years. Only about a tenth of the usual crowd showed up this year, but organizers said they were still pleased with the turnout.
“A lot of people came down early and sat in their cars and watched the parade,” Butman said. “Quite a few people I know of were inside the shops inside the parade route.”
The Christmas Lights parade is organized and funded entirely by the KTXS news station; it takes place every year during the Downtown Association’s City Sidewalks event. Roger Ingram, KTXS promotions producer, said when it began the parade was a small event at the Mall of Abilene with only 10 floats. Since then, the event has grown to 100 floats and is a KTXS tradition.
This year’s City Sidewalks theme was Light Up Your Christmas in Historic Downtown, which made for decorative window displays that complemented the glittering parade floats. The lighting of the community Christmas tree at the Abilene Civic Center concluded the event. Visitors of all ages also welcomed the Christmas season with holiday-themed activities, Butman said, including a gingerbread house competition, a coloring contest and a “reindeer game,” a scavenger hunt in the downtown area.
Seven-year-old Brayden Campbell was awarded the grand prize of 500 “Downtown Dollars” for his gingerbread log-house creation, in a contest sponsored by ADA. Campbell, who innocently asked if grand prize was better than first, will have the opportunity to spend the dollars at any of 28 businesses in Downtown Abilene.
The winner of the coloring contest rode in Santa’s sleigh during the parade, and some of the elaborate creations from the gingerbread house competition will be on display in the McKay’s Bakery window this week.
“It was a fabulous time for everybody that came,” Butman said.