ANDERSON, Ind. — Paul Bickel remembers garland that draped over the street during Anderson’s Christmas parade when he was a kid. He remembers a Santa Claus house, Christmas trees and how pretty the courthouse looked.
“My memories go way back,” the 71-year-old Anderson resident and businessman said.
More than 50 years later, some of that history is helping build the town’s future and the return of the Anderson Christmas parade set for Friday evening.
Frank Owens, head of the city’s Municipal Development, said plans for the event’s return came after he realized the last motorcade to go through town was at the former 4th of July Midnight Parade, last held in 2009.
“We haven’t had a parade in the last four or five years of any kind,” Owens said. “Mayor (Kevin) Smith and I were having lunch one day about a year ago and I just brought up that it would be really nice to have a Christmas parade.”
After word got out that the mayor’s office planned on bringing back the parade, Bickel returned the city’s Christmas decorations he had in storage that date back to the 1950s. The retro items have already been displayed across town to show a hint of history while reintroducing the once annual event.
Friday night, bands, choirs, dancers and various other groups will entertain spectators, said Alisha Cummings, director of media affairs for the mayor’s office.
“Anderson really needs a reason to celebrate,” she said.
Activities will kick off with the lighting of the tree by Mayor Smith and U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks, R-District 5, at 6 p.m. Friday at City Hall. The parade will follow at 6:30 p.m., starting at Meridian and Eighth streets, then south to 13th Street, around the block and north on Jackson Street where it will end at Seventh Street.
Almost 60 entries were submitted to be in the parade, all of which were accepted, Cummings said. Entries include everything from roller derby girls to businesses.
“When we first started out my goal was 30 because it was the first time and you try to set a goal in mind of how things will progress, I didn’t know what to anticipate,” Owens said. “For it to go from what my goal of 30 was to double — I mean literally double the goal — was just overwhelming.
“It shows you the outpouring from the citizens and business community.”
The parade will include a float contest with prizes. Activities during the celebration will include complimentary milk and cookies throughout the route and a zip line for $5 from 5 to 9 p.m. Families can also visit Santa’s Workshop from 7 to 9 p.m.
While many residents have written their memories of the vintage decorations on the event’s Facebook page, younger generations are creating their own memories with the parade’s reboot. Owens said 20 kids originally volunteered to play elves but that number has grown to 50.
Levi Rinker of the city’s parks department said the last Christmas parade was before his time and he’s honored to help bring it back. He volunteered to build Santa’s chair as well as the milk and cookie stands.
“Any time you see the city taking an active role in the quality of life and the spirit of the community, it’s wonderful to be a part of it,” he said.