It was the late, great Ron Jennings who wrote, “The fact that Sedalia is a great parade town is, to me, one of the neatest things about our fair city.”
And concerning the Christmas parade in particular, the Hall of Fame journalist contended: “Although it doesn’t have any large Bullwinkle balloons or dancers from Broadway musicals … the local procession does have something even neater as far as I’m concerned — familiar friends and neighbors giving their all to kick off the Christmas season in high, hometown fashion.”
This year, the forces of nature conspired against the Sedalia Area Chamber of Commerce and everyone who planned to participate in or just watch the annual downtown Christmas parade. Expressing her frustrations, chamber executive director Angie Thompson told me, “It’s very disappointing when Mother Nature doesn’t want to cooperate not one but three Saturdays in a row.”
For the third time, the Chamber cancelled the parade. There just wasn’t an open date before Christmas and many participants’ calendars had already filled up. The decision was a tough one for Thompson,
“The main reason was extremely cold temperature the first time and icy conditions the next two times,” she said. “The safety of our community is always on the forefront.”
“We put so many hours of preparation in to have the parade, as did several of the entries. Getting city permits, the additional liability insurance, volunteers, judges and so much more takes a great effort on the part of the Sedalia Area Chamber of Commerce.”
But when the cancellation announcement was made, a group including Dukes & Boots owner Dale Malone, State Farm Insurance agent Matt Mergen and Lauren Berube of the Bank of Central Missouri started working on a way to salvage the parade, even if it took place after Christmas. They appealed to Thompson Hills Shopping Center merchants Brian Vincent and Ken Weller, and a plan emerged to run the parade today, the first Saturday after Christmas, around the center’s parking lot.
Malone said the effort began simply enough — with a Facebook post acknowledging cancellation of the Christmas parade and the comment, “We’ll see about that.” The post received scores of likes and comments from people asking how they could help make a parade a reality.
“We put a lot of work into this in a couple of days,” Malone said. With the event scheduled for the shopping center parking lot, there was no need for a city permit, and the Thompson Hills Investment Corp. already carried the appropriate insurance. Malone said the group discussed having the parade on New Year’s Day, but decided a Saturday likely would draw a better crowd.
Malone then received a phone call informing him that Terry Cockrell, the driving force behind Sedalia’s annual Old Fashioned Fourth of July celebration, had been granted a permit to run a parade downtown on New Year’s Day.
“I was encouraged by a lot of people in town who said, ‘Hey, Terry, you’re good at putting parades on,’” Cockrell told me. So he secured a permit and distributed press releases to local media. He has issued an open invitation to anyone who wants to participate in the parade, but to date has not heard from anyone who was scheduled to be part of the Chamber’s parade. Cockrell also was unaware of any other efforts to stage a parade.
When Malone’s group learned of Cockrell’s parade, they “graciously bowed out,” not wanting to run a competing event and acknowledging that Cockrell “has more parade experience than we did,” Malone said.
There is no fee to enter Cockrell’s parade. Groups are encouraged to line up starting at 2 p.m. Jan. 1 at Sixth Street and Ohio Avenue for staging; parade order will be first-come, first-served. The parade will begin at 3 p.m. and will travel north on Ohio Avenue to Main Street, where it will turn west, move onto Osage Avenue then disband.
“I’m hoping for a large turnout, including the crowd, to show that we still have the Sedalia spirit,” Cockrell said. “I’ve looked at the weather and … depending on which forecast you look at, it is supposed to be about 35 (degrees) but it could be up to 45. … There’s a chance for having a successful parade there.”
Malone expressed his sincere hope that Cockrell’s parade is a success.
“We just want this town to have the parade it deserves,” he said.
To pull this off, Cockrell will need a lot of word-of-mouth support, but he is optimistic that it will all come together in time to kick off 2014.
“As former Mayor (Bob) Wasson told me, if you can get more than 20 units in a parade, and you have more than 100 people show up, you did something wonderful,” Cockrell said.