Rogers Christmas Parade returns at least one more time on Friday
ROGERS – During Friday’s annual Christmas Parade amid uncertainty about the event’s future, floats, lights and crowds will fill downtown Rogers.
The parade is slated to begin at 7 p.m. and run a roughly one mile (1.6 km) route through downtown, according to Shey Bland, director of Downtown Rogers Inc. About 70 organizations – an average number – have signed up this year, she says called.
Northwest Arkansas Regional Dance will perform in the square north of the Christmas tree about 30 minutes before the parade, Bland said. Java Dudes’ Justin Reed and Dustin Breazeale will serve as Grand Marshals.
The parade has been a Rogers tradition for decades, Bland said. In 2020, the parade was put on hold because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but organizations were able to submit videos for a virtual presentation, she said.
It is unclear whether the tradition will be continued this year. City officials announced during an annual budget review meeting on November 15 that they would end a $ 100,000 event planning contract with Downtown Rogers Inc., a division of the Rogers-Lowell Chamber of Commerce.
The money will go to cultural and arts programs, and the city will continue with downtown events like concerts at Railyard Park, said John McCurdy, director of community development. A private contractor will manage the farmers market, he said.
The city will not fund the Frisco Festival or the Christmas parade in 2022, said Mayor Greg Hines.
There has been some talk about the three Rotary clubs in Rogers organizing the Christmas parade, Bland said.
The board of directors of the Rotary Club of Downtown Rogers has discussed the possibility of taking over the Christmas parade with the help of the other two Rotary clubs in town to run it properly, said club secretary Rick McCleod.
“No decisions have been made and the discussions are very preliminary,” said McCleod.
The Rogers Rotary Club has volunteered to help set up the parade and help keep the parade moving and keeping the route clear, said club president Jene Huffman-Gilreath. The club’s board has not met since the city’s decision in November to discuss taking over the parade, she said.
The Rogers Early Risers Rotary Club is unable to participate in the parade but has helped in the past and looks forward to helping in the future, said club president Michelle Fittro.
According to Bland, it takes a lot of behind-the-scenes work to plan a Christmas parade.
Once the year-long event finishes, Bland will make a list of notes and start planning for the next year, she said.
Santa Claus is booked in the spring and the guidelines and rules for attendees will be updated well in advance, she said. The parade needs to be marketed to the public and to organizations that wish to participate. Banners need to be made and sponsorship sold, Bland said.
Applications will be submitted in October and the lineup needs planning, Bland said. For the dance performance before the parade, judges must be organized and a stage and lighting must be provided. Rotary clubs help set up the cars, and 14 security elves put caution tape in front of the parade and then take it off afterwards, she said.
The parade costs approximately $ 6,000, not counting donations in kind from sponsors, Bland said. Sponsorship and floating fees cover the cost and offer an additional few thousand dollars to get started next year, she said. The budget doesn’t include the cost of a paid staff member to organize the event, which would put the parade in the red, she said.
“My budget table is what we paid for,” she said. “It’s a whole other thing to add in kind and paid employees.”
Bentonville, Springdale, and Fayetteville all celebrate the holidays with Christmas parades.
Fayetteville’s Lights of the Ozarks Parade, organized by Experience Fayetteville, takes place the Friday before Thanksgiving, said Hazel Hernandez, vice president of marketing for the organization. The parade is a 25-year tradition that takes place just before the mayor flips the switch to turn on the Christmas lights downtown, she said.
The Springdale Parade has been hosted by Rodeo of the Ozarks for the past 24 years, according to general manager Rick Culver. The event will take place on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, he said. The weather for this year’s event was beautiful and there was a lot of turnout, he said.
Bentonville’s Christmas Parade is being organized by Downtown Bentonville Inc., according to the organization’s website. It is scheduled for December 11th at 6 p.m. around the market square in the city center.
Bland hopes the Rogers Christmas parade tradition will continue and the city will even one day host parades for other holidays, she said.
“We just have a great route and great bones to put on parades and they’re a great way to celebrate our community,” she said.