December is a month of celebration. Some call it Christmas, to others it's Hanukkah or maybe even Kwanzaa. By any name, the time of the Winter Solstice has come and the city is celebrating in true fashion. Whatever this time of year may mean to you, one thing is certain, everyone is looking to have a good time and celebrate the season.
McNellie's Holiday Parade of Lights is Tulsa's oldest Christmas tradition. The name may have changed -- and will probably continue to change as sponsors come and go -- but the spirit behind the celebration is the same.
"We just try to put on something that kids and families will enjoy, will look and sound good in person and on TV," said Larry Fox, the parade's organizer. "We're really not trying to make any political statement. It's really that simple."
So go watch the lighting of the menorah, attend a Christmas play set in Bethlehem or find the warmth of the season in fellowship with loved ones but afterward, show up at the parade and watch the symbols of the season float through downtown's Blue Dome district.
"The tradition of the parade in Tulsa is an important one," said Elliot Nelson, owner of McNellie's. "I think anytime you have a family focused event that's lasted over 70 years, you see a lot of traditions and shared memories across generations. There just aren't many events in our city that have had three or four generations attending."
Everyone loves a giant floating gingerbread man who appears to be lifting his would-be string-holders off the ground. If nothing else, watching event participants continually try to wrangle in their massive helium balloons is a sight worth seeing and usually very amusing. If all the friendly float guides manage to stay glued to the ground this year, there is still plenty worth seeing.
The 2010 parade will feature more floats than any other year, giant helium balloons of all shapes and sizes, marching bands and beauty queens; and that's just to name a few attractions.
"It's the premier event of this time in the city, in terms of the professional floats, balloons and being televised," Fox said. "It's supposed to be a nice day, not too cold. It's the best parade in the city and state by leaps and bounds. I encourage people to come down and watch it and if you can't watch in person, watch on TV."
So go ahead, bundle from head to toe. Scarves, gloves, a few layers should do the trick and get out of the house. Starting at 6pm, Dec. 11, the parade winds from 7th & Cincinnati through downtown and over to the BOK Center. The merriment continues with Blue Dome district businesses inviting the crowds in out of the cold.
For those that can't face the outside elements, the parade will be shown on KTUL, channel 8 for most in Tulsa.
"I think downtown Tulsa has made a tremendous amount of progress over the past 10 years -- the life we now have in the Blue Dome and Brady Districts, the BOK Center, the ballpark, all the new residences, a new energy on Boston -- I hope a lot of people will see this as an opportunity to come enjoy downtown and engage in the rebirth," Nelson said.
"Also, given the new route, I think there will be a new dynamic to the parade that hasn't existed in nearly 30 years. The route will be going by several active businesses that are open at that time on a Saturday night. I think it will give the parade a great feel."
Winterfest also offers seasonal activities nightly around the BOK Center, 200 S. Denver. While it is freezing out, outdoor ice skating rinks are hard to come by in these parts but Winterfest has created the perfect atmosphere for one. Come see Santa as he Segways by the tallest Christmas tree in the state, catch a horse and carriage ride through downtown or watch a live music performance on ONEOK's stage.
There are events going on all over town including seasonal performances of The Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol, showings of It's a Wonderful Life and so much more. Check out UTW's event section for a listing of all the holiday excitement. It only comes once a year folks, don't get left out in the cold for in 2010.
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