Who doesn’t love a parade? Most people understand the hometown spirit of a homecoming parade or a county fair during the warmer months. But in December? What began as an idea to promote the Eldridge Hotel in 1993, the Lawrence Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade is one of the most unique parades in the nation. Held the first Saturday in December at 11 a.m., this year marks its 30th anniversary.
Here’s why the Lawrence Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade is truly unique and why it was named a Top 10 Things to Do During the Christmas Season by USA Today.
1. It’s in Lawrence. The town was established in 1854 by the New England Emigrant Aid Company with a political agenda – to shift the balance of power toward anti-slavery so Kansas would enter the United States as a free state rather than a slave state. Lawrence became a focal point of that debate and the Bleeding Kansas era that followed, including the Wakarusa War, the sacking of Lawrence, and Quantrill's Raid, which resulted in the burning of Lawrence and the massacre of over 200 men and boys. The Eldridge Hotel has twice been burned to the ground and twice risen from the ashes.
2. It takes place on Massachusetts Street, which has been called “the best destination in Kansas." Come early and stay after to enjoy the unique shops and art galleries, locally owned restaurants, breweries, coffee houses, and music venues.
3. The parade officially begins at 11 a.m., but the fun starts much earlier! Downtown Lawrence offers multiple options for breakfast and brunch before the parade so you can fuel up before claiming your viewing spot. Other pre-parade activities include the Watkins Museum’s Tails & Traditions Scavenger Hunt and the grand opening of the Parades as Community exhibit on the second floor of the museum at the corner of 11th and Massachusetts. Local businesses offer hot drinks and special parade-day promotions as well. Plan to stay after the parade and let the traffic disperse while you enjoy the variety of shopping and dining options on and off of Mass.
4. Did we mention “Old-Fashioned”? That means history and horses. Only horses. Pulling carriages, buggies, wagons, stagecoaches, you name it. No motorized vehicles, period. And only authentic or historically accurate replicas of the horse-drawn vehicles of the late 1800s and early 1900s. And all horses. More than 200 horses in total. You’ll see all breeds, all sizes, all colors. Horse-pulling vehicles and individual horses ridden by riding groups and cowboy outriders. Drivers and riders in historic or holiday attire and in beautifully decorated carriages. No cars, no floats, no politicians waving to the crowd. No marching bands or firetruck sirens. Just Christmas carols, the clop, clop, clop of horses’ hooves, and the jingle jangle of sleigh bells and harnesses.
4. It’s a Christmas parade! Wreaths, garland, packages tied up in bows, jingle bells, Santa hats, maybe a Grinch or two, and Santa himself will all appear before your eyes as the parade makes its way down Massachusetts. Many families make the Lawrence Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade the traditional beginning of the holiday season. Join us on December 2 at 11 a.m. and make it yours!