With many special events canceled or put on hold this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the undeterred organizers of Dodge City’s annual Christmas Parade of Lights were determined to come up with a safe solution to ensure the tradition but with a twist.
"The parade is a cherished holiday tradition enjoyed by hundreds of residents and out-of-town guests and we couldn’t let 2020 end without having something available for our community to enjoy," said Jerri Whitley, with Victory Electric. "But we knew having that many people gathered along a parade route would make the task of keeping citizens safe and enforcing spectators to socially distance next to impossible."
With support from community officials and effort to create a safe, fun environment for all, parade organizers redesigned the traditional parade into a"reverse" paradeformat.
This unique reverse parade does not mean that floats will be moving backwards, but rather they will be stationary and spaced apart.
Spectators wishing for a dose of seasonal merriment will simply drive through the designated route and admire the floats from the safety of their vehicles. The new parade format allows for social distancing between parade entries and no direct contact with spectators.
"It’s 2020, and I think everyone has gotten familiar with the unexpected," said Megan Welsh, Dodge City Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Although this parade format will be something new — we hope it brings the same excitement and fun for everyone.
"We want everyone to feel like they are part of the parade by either decorating a float or by driving through the parade. Spectators can even add to the festivities by decorating their vehicles, too. The more holiday spirit flowing, the better."
The theme for this year’s Parade of Lights is "Make Your Way Down Candy Cane Lane," and it is slated for 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 30.
The reverse parade will be set up in the Wright Park area, ensuring plenty of space for parade floats and displays while providing viewers with safe space in which to take in the lights and Christmas decorations.
This year, event organizers choose to cancel the chili cook-off that is traditionally held in conjunction with the parade for safety reasons.
For people unable to physically attend the parade, organizers plan to use social media via Facebook Live and television’s Cox Channel 8 so community members can enjoy the parade fromtheir own homes.
More information will be relayed as determined on the "Christmas in Dodge City" Facebook page at www.facebook.com/christmasindodgecity.
While traditional parade floats are invited to participate, people are encouraged to get creative with their Christmas entries.
All parade entries must have holiday lights to be accepted and are encouraged to reflect a holiday theme or the parade theme of "Make Your Way Down Candy Cane Lane."
Limited electrical access will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, otherwise parade entrants must provide their own power source.
Masks are required, as is maintaining a 6-foot social distance.
There is no entry fee.
Businesses, organizations, churches, individuals or other groups wishing to participate in the parade can view additional parade information, such as entry guidelines, as well as complete the online entry form at https://www.victoryelectric.net/19th-annual-christmas-parade-lights, or email email@example.com.
Individuals can also contact Rebecca Gerber at the Dodge City Daily Globe at 620-338-1261.
Traditionally and in spirit, it would be common during the holiday season to find various groups taking it upon themselves to visit local nursing homes and share by chatting and singing Christmas carols to residents.
Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, nursing homes and long-term care facilities still have stringent visitor restrictions designed to slow the spread of the virus among vulnerable older adults.
"It is the committee’s sincere hope to make this year’s Christmas memorable for all, including those struggling from the changes brought on by COVID-19," Whitley said. "We recognize the physical separation and isolation from family and other loved ones has taken a significant toll on residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities.In the spirit of holiday giving and through the Christmas Cheer Project, we wanted to give our community the opportunity to make a difference and add a little holiday joy to the lives of those cherished residents."
The community can still bring cheer and raise the spirits of residents at local nursing homes and long-term care facilities by:
• Sending a Christmas card with a handwritten personal letter or note to communicate with the elderly.
• Donate an ornament, wreath, artwork or small Christmas decor item.
• Children can paint or color something special like a Christmas card or something to hang on a resident’s wall.
• Puzzles, cozy slippers or other holiday comfort items are acceptable, except for food.
• To ensure the health and safety of all patients, if donating an item that is not handmade, it is requested that the item be new and in original packaging.
There will be a drop-off point for donated items on the parade route and at Victory Electric’s office.
There will be a drop box for any smaller items, such as cards and ornaments, at the Dodge City Convention and Visitors Bureau Visitors Center at 3rd Avenue and Wyatt Earp Boulevard.
All items must be dropped off at the parade on Nov. 30 or in the drop box by Dec. 3.
As a safety precaution to mitigate the spread of germs, donated items will be kept by parade organizers for a couple of days before delivery, but people are still urged to wash their hands before handling envelopes and to clean any donations if possible.
The lighting of the mayor’s Christmas tree is regarded as the official signal that the Christmas season in Dodge City has officially begun.
This year, the tree lighting ceremony will take place as a live virtual event at 5:40 p.m. before the start of the parade and can be viewed at www.facebook.com/christmasindodgecity.
In conjunction with the tree-lighting ceremony, the Dodge City Convention and Visitors Bureau and the City of Dodge City are hosting their annual Christmas prize giveaway.
The first drawing for this year’s drawing is an 8-foot Christmas stocking filled with toys for individuals age 12 and under, and the second drawing for those age 13 and older is $500 in Dodge City Area Chamber of Commerce Bucks.
The two winners of the drawings will be announced at the Mayor’s Virtual Tree Lighting Ceremony, and since the event is virtual, participants will not need to be present to win. They will be contacted the following day at the phone number provided upon registration.
Registration for the drawings can be done from noon Nov. 28 through 4 p.m. Nov. 30 at http://www.visitdodgecity.org/101/Christmas-in-Old-Dodge-City. Individuals can also register in person from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 30 at the Dodge City Visitor Information Center, 400 W. Wyatt Earp Blvd.
After the prize giveaway and the other tree lighting ceremony activities conclude, Mayor Joyce Warshaw will travel to the parade grounds in Wright Park to signal the official start of the parade procession.
Dodge City Main Street is accepting letters to Santa Claus.
Kids who can write are encouraged to hand-write their letter and be creative by adding artwork and drawings. Kids who cannot write yet can dictate to parents and spend a little time decorating the letter with stickers or a drawing.
Parents and legal guardians are asked to help their child, keep letters to one page and be sure to include the child’s first name and address.
Letters to Santa can be dropped off at the designated point on the parade route, or at the drop box that will located at the CVB Visitor’s Center at 3rd Avenue and Wyatt Earp Boulevard.
All letters must be dropped off at the parade on Nov. 30 or in the drop box by Dec. 9.
The 2020 Dodge City "Reverse" Christmas Parade of Lights is sponsored by Victory Electric Cooperative, City of Dodge City, Dodge City Daily Globe, Southwind Broadcasting, Main Street Dodge City, Dodge City Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Dodge City Area Chamber of Commerce.