The first Bismarck Christmas Parade delivered a host of holiday colors and sounds to the community’s 1,500 residents on a chilly but dry Saturday night.
Event planners had questioned just how many floats might appear in the initial parade, but any concerns were laid to rest when the floats, decorated four-wheelers, tractors, pickups and fire engines began their procession at Bismarck School, traveled down Center Street and ended at the city’s old train station where the annual “Christmas at the Depot” was held to the wonder and delight of children of all ages. Bringing up the end of the parade were Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus who, as is tradition, rode to the train station on the back of a Bismarck fire engine.
“We decided this year that we wanted to do Christmas a little bit bigger and we really wanted to make a thing with Santa,” said Evelyn Wallis, Bismarck Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors member. “So we decided, ‘Hey, why don’t we try a parade — it’ll bring everybody in?’ Part of Christmas is the festivity and the spirit. We thought this would be the best way to do it.”
According to Wallis, the community’s response to the parade was even greater than had been anticipated.
“We were very excited by the turnout,” she said. “We actually had people from two different counties that showed up (Saturday) evening just to attend the parade and they’re staying for the rest of the event. We got the parade together in about three weeks. That’s what’s great about this town — everybody pulled together and they said, ‘Let’s make it work,’ and they did. We are very thankful for the people who came from out of town. The Mineral Area College cheerleaders came and it was great to see Kirby the Cardinal.”
The line of patient parents and excited children waiting to see Santa Claus stretched from the depot to the junction of East Main and Center streets as others admired the holiday inflatables, enjoyed a free bag of fresh popcorn, gazed at the city’s lighted Christmas tree or stepped inside the depot for a little warmth, hot chocolate and holiday snacks.
The annual Christmas festivity is a joint effort by the city, chamber and Depot Committee, all of whom put in a considerable amount of time and effort to bring a touch of holiday spirit to the townspeople.
“I think tonight is going really well,” said Liz Bennett, Depot Committee president. “The parade was just beautiful! All the floats were just lit up. It was wonderful! It’s a beautiful evening — not so frigidly cold. The new ornament on the end of the depot is beautiful. It used to be the one that hung at the four-way stop. There’s a lot of people moving around and everybody’s having a great time.”
Bismarck Mayor Seth Radford, who always mysteriously disappears just prior to the appearance of Santa Claus, couldn’t have been happier about this year’s event.
“It has been a great night,” he said. “This was the first Christmas parade it went really good with a lot of people coming out to watch and now we have a big crowd here at the depot. The parents are having a wonderful time and the children are all excited about seeing Santa Claus. It’s just another example of what a great town Bismarck is.
“I also want to point out that we had Santa come in on a fire truck again this year. There’s been some who have thought about having Santa Claus come in on a sleigh or in a carriage, but this is the way we’ve always done it since our Christmas celebration started down at the school back in the late 90s and I’m glad we’re keeping that tradition alive.”
Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or firstname.lastname@example.org