Santa arrives at the end of the Christmas Parade 2016. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo)
UPDATE (3:45 p.m.) – The O’Fallon Weekly has spoken to Mayor Herb Roach about the cancellation of the Illuminated Christmas Parade.
“We were totally caught by surprise,” Mayor Herb Roach said.
He went on to explain that he was hoping to have Christmas lights at City Hall and along First and State Streets that would light as part of the parade to add to the tradition.
“I had three different firms come in and give us bids on doing that, and my planning was to try to have those lights come on when the first band or vehicle hit the stop signs next to City Hall. So, when this came up, this totally caught me by surprise.”
Roach is also speaking with as many people as possible in an attempt to save the parade.
“I’ve reached out to three different groups here in town to see if we can do something; If one group, or the other, or all three of them can help do something. I’ve reached out to the Van Ettens to see what we can do, and to see if we could get the floats and so forth to do something. I’ve got a meeting with one group tonight, the group that’s helping me try to regenerate the Homecoming in O’Fallon, to see if they would be interested in helping. We’re trying to do whatever we can to try to save this,” he said.
Roach also talked about his own experience with the holiday tradition.
“It’s always been a fun thing. I’ve driven my vehicle and had lights on it for a number of years, and my granddaughters would sit in the back and throw candy out. We’re going to see what we can do. I can’t promise anything, but we’re going to see what we can do. Maybe that means the city acquiring the float beds or whatever to see what we can have stuff available so that we can have parades in the future, and then we have the equipment right here.”
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O’FALLON – The annual O’Fallon Illuminated Christmas Parade has been canceled. The private committee in charge of the event spoke to the O’Fallon Weekly about the surprising move.
“As a committee, we have decided to give it up. It was getting harder and harder to get people to work, to build floats,” Dee Van Etten explained. She and Roger Van Etten have done much of the work on the floats in previous years, and she cited her age and Roger’s physical limitations as contributing factors, along with financial constraints.
“We’ve just come to the point where we just can’t do it anymore. We’ve advertised for float builders, and no one is responding. We’ve put a lot of our own money into it. We just can’t do it anymore,” she continued.
Van Etten became emotional when talking about the parade, which has been a tradition for many decades.
The parade, which has been an annual tradition since the early 1990s, took place on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, heralding Santa Claus’s official arrival to O’Fallon. It wound through the city streets before ending downtown next to Santa’s Hut. Santa would then be available for visits and photos with children.
“I think it’s a very looked forward to and treasured O’Fallon tradition at Christmas time, and I think it will be sorely missed. It’s just a fun time,” O’Fallon Historical Society President Brian Keller said.
“It really is a downtown tradition. I’m hoping that someone will take it up, but I don’t know if that will happen or not. It’s no small thing to put on a parade. Especially with floats, and the illuminated floats. That’s a lot of work, and someone’s got to do it. It is very said,” Keller continued.
Keller explained the history of the parade, and noted that Santa’s Hut, which has been around since the 1950s, has operated independently of the parade before, and would continue to do so.
“Santa used to arrive in a fire truck, but Santa’s Hut was always separate from the parade except for opening up that night. It may not open that night following the parade, but other than that, as far as I know, Santa will be at Santa’s Hut during the usual hours this holiday season,” Keller said.
He did acknowledge that the Downtown O’Fallon Plaza project could soon put a wrench into the Santa’s Hut tradition as well, saying “With that project still in the development stage, we just don’t know moving forward what that area will look like. We’ll just have to wait and see how that area will be redeveloped.”
Keller also noted that even with weather concerns, people still attended the event. “One year, the city had lost power due to some weather issues, and many people came just to have something to do. No matter what it was like outside, people came out to watch the parade. It will definitely be missed.”
The parade is not a City of O’Fallon run event, however the Weekly did reach out to Mayor Herb Roach and is awaiting comment. The city did post to their social media with the following statement: “The City of O’Fallon was saddened to hear the news that the O’Fallon Homecoming Association decided to cancel the annual Illuminated Christmas Parade. The City of O’Fallon does not know the reasons behind the cancellation, but must respect the decision of the O’Fallon Homecoming Association. While the City of O’Fallon has not been involved in the organization of the event or the decision to cancel the event, since hearing of the cancellation, Mayor Roach has been having discussions with a number of individuals that would be interested in preserving the parade.”