Christmas parade set for Saturday

Photo by Alan Warren, Messenger-Inquirer | awarren@messenger-inquirer.com Christopher Payne, left and Misty Boone make some final adjustments to the Estes Elementary School float before the start of the 82nd annual Owensboro-Daviess County Christmas Parade in Owensboro, Ky., on November 17, 2018.

The 83rd annual Owensboro-Daviess County Christmas Parade will step off from Second and Pearl streets at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, heading west through downtown to the Owensboro Convention Center area.

Isabella Paige Watts of Audubon Elementary School will blow the whistle to start the parade.

And Kenny Williams, parade chairman, is hoping that will last about an hour -- about half the time it has taken in the past.

"We're trying to move it at a decent pace and not leave big holes in the parade," he said.

When the parade lasted two hours, parents were often seen leaving with small children asleep on the shoulders long before Santa rolled past them on his float.

"We don't want that to happen," Williams said. "We want them to see Santa."

They're not shortening the parade.

It will again have about 110 units, Williams said.

But it will move quicker, he said.

Two trolleys will carry World War II veterans -- this year's grand marshals -- in the parade.

The Nicky Hayden Memorial Foundation is being honored as a "special invited guest."

"We've invited them in the past," Williams said. "But they're so humble. We're glad they accepted this year. They've done and are doing so much for children."

Nicky Hayden, an Owensboro native, became an international motorcycle racing star. He died in May 2017, after a car hit him while he was riding a bicycle in Italy.

Williams said, "We expect between 15,000 and 20,000 to be downtown for the parade, depending on the weather."

The National Weather Service says there's a chance of rain Saturday, but mostly in the morning.

The parade theme this year is "Christmas Memories."

"We're interested in seeing how people interpret that," Williams said.

Miss Kentucky -- Alex Francke of Lexington -- will also be in the parade, but the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile won't.

"It was supposed to come a few years ago, but couldn't make it because of the weather," Williams said. "We were hoping we could get it this year, but they're not going to be in this part of the country."

Hot fresh mini donuts, Nathan's hot dogs, organic sausages, nachos, hot chocolate and coffee.

But snow cones, fajitas, mini donuts, Nathan's hot dogs, organic sausages, nachos, hot chocolate, coffee and J's Good Grub food truck will be available near the Daviess County Courthouse, he said.

Williams said the parade has a growing reputation in the Ohio Valley. It's the first Christmas parade in Kentucky each year.

The Owensboro parade also claims the title of being Kentucky's second-largest parade -- behind Louisville's Pegasus Parade.

And it has staked its claim as the largest Christmas parade in the tri-state area.

The parade's motto is "Where Kentucky Starts Christmas."

It traces its origins to Thursday, Dec. 2, 1937.

By 6 that night, thousands of people -- said to be the largest crowd ever for a local parade -- had gathered downtown.

Santa Claus circled the city in a lighted airplane and then headed for the airport, then on Daniels Lane.

All Christmas decorations in the city remained dark until 7:30 p.m. when a blast from every factory whistle in the city signaled the beginning of the Christmas season -- and the start of the parade.

After nearly 40 years as a morning or early afternoon event, in 1990, the parade switched back to a night parade, because people preferred lighted floats.

In 2008, the parade saw another change.

After 35 years of marching north from Ninth and Frederica streets and winding through downtown, the parade moved to Second Street only.

And it's still there today.

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

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