Russellville Christmas parade hits streets tonight

By Tammy Keith Published December 6, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
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— Kelli Nealy, special events coordinator for the Russellville Recreation and Parks Department, is hoping for at least a nip in the air for the Christmas parade tonight.

“I want it to have a little bit of cold in the air because that makes it seem more like Christmas. If we have to wear shorts, that doesn’t look very good,” Nealy said, laughing.

The Russellville Christmas parade — billed as the “largest lit parade in Arkansas” — begins downtown immediately after the 6 p.m. Christmas Tree Lighting downtown sponsored by the Russellville Area Chamber of Commerce.

“My understanding is it’s considered the largest lit parade in the state because so many of the parades are during the day. Ours is the largest one at night,” Nealy said.

The Recreation and Parks Department took over the parade from the chamber a few years ago, she said.

“It’s by far the largest event that we do,” Nealy said. “We try to improve every year.”

Felecia Turnbow, executive vice president of the chamber, said the tree lighting has been going on for about 30 years.

She said the community Christmas tree, at Boulder and West Main streets, was planted in the 1980s.

“The community is welcome to gather down there with us,” she said.

The event usually draws not only Russellville residents, but visitors from throughout the area.

Carols will be sung first, and at about 6:15 p.m., a countdown will be held to light the tree, she said.

“It just signifies the shopping season and the Christmas season in Russellville and the [Arkansas] River Valley,” Turnbow said.

Santa and Mrs. Claus will be at the lighting event, too, she said.

With the theme “A Storybook Christmas,” the parade will begin at 10th and South Arkansas streets. From there, it will travel north on Arkansas to Main Street and head west to El Paso, where the parade will end with a tradition — Santa Claus, aka Alan Tucker, in his sleigh.

“He’s Santa Claus in my eyes,” Nealy said. “He’s wonderful.”

Santa will be the culmination of lots of wonderful sights and sounds, she said.

“We have all the area bands; we’ve got a lot of floats. We have, we call it royalty, from this area,” Nealy said.

She said the parade will include “lots of antique cars. There’s an antique tractor; it’s really neat. We require everything to be really lit.”

She said emergency-response vehicles participate, too.

Prizes will be awarded in two categories, nonprofit and commercial, and a grand prize will be selected from among all float entries.

“We gave a Santa’s Choice that is chosen from all the parade entries — not necessarily a float — it can be awarded for a band,” she said.

Nealy said the parade brings in a crowd.

“Of course, we can’t count all of them, but there are thousands of people there,” she said.

She just hopes they’re not all wearing shorts.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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