Parade to light up the holidays
Owatonna is ready to light up the holidays.
On Thursday, Dec. 5, the community will host its annual Lighted Holiday Parade beginning at 6 p.m. Approximately 70 units all outlined with bright holiday lights and decorations are expected to take part in the holiday celebration, according to Shirley Schultz, MainStreet director with the Owatonna Chamber of Commerce.
For Owatonna, it’s a tradition that has been the kick off to the holiday season since the early 1990s. There are as many as 4,000 people that typically line up throughout the downtown area to watch the parade and program in Central Park.
After the parade, the ceremonial lighting of the lights in Central Park will take place at 6:45 p.m. Carolers from Owatonna High School will entertain folks with Christmas music. And, of course, Santa Claus is expected to make his jolly appearance with some treats.
One change this year from the past, Schultz said, is that a $25 registration fee is being charged for businesses and groups to take part in the parade. The money raised through the registration fees will be utilized to purchase new Christmas lights on Main Street and the surrounding allies, she noted.
To add to the excitement for parade entrants there will be a trophy awarded this year for the best lighted unit.
The parade typically features floats, cars and groups of people with holiday lights lighting up their path through the route. “Some have so much fun with this,” Schultz said. “There is real excitement about being downtown.”
One of the more festive units is typically a city snow plow that features the most lights of any unit. The plow also features moving snow blades and toots its horn.
Schultz said the parade got its beginnings with carolers strolling through the downtown singing Christmas carols. “People would walk and sing and it morphed into bigger groups,” she explained.
She said the parade creates holiday fun for many. “All the businesses get excited and give back to the community,” Schultz said. “The community just loves to come together. It’s a reason to get out.”
This year the chamber, for example, is getting into the excitement by featuring a station wagon with a spoof replicating the vehicle used in the hit holiday movie, Christmas Vacation. Schultz said the wagon will have a Christmas tree on the top. “We want to show enthusiasm for the community,” she said.
Schultz calls Owatonna’s holiday parade “one of the best in Minnesota.” She said she is not aware of many communities offering such a parade like Owatonna does.
While nobody has control over what Mother Nature does, Schultz is hoping for a third straight year of temperatures in the 30s. Regardless, people typically show up no matter what happens. “We live with the cold, we can bear it,” Schultz said. “Bundle up.”
Besides the festivities downtown, the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train will also be roaring into Owatonna earlier in the day. At 3:40 p.m., the train will be stopping at 1145 Park Drive at the rail crossing near Owatonna Bus Company.
The train is a great way to get into the festive spirit. It is about 1,000 feet long with 14 brightly decorated rail cars. Each car is decorated with hundreds of thousands of LED lights and holiday designs celebrating the spirit of the giving season.
CP’s holiday train travels across Canada and the U.S. raising money, food and awareness for food banks and hunger issues. Since its launch in 1999, the program has raised more than $10 million and 3.6 million pounds of food for North American food banks and shelves.