Rogers Christmas parade returns Friday, at least one more time

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ROGERS — Floats, lights and crowds of people will fill downtown Rogers during Friday’s annual Christmas parade amid uncertainty about the event’s future.

The parade is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. and make its way down an approximately one-mile route through downtown, according to Shey Bland, director of Downtown Rogers Inc. About 70 organizations — an average number — have entered this year, she said.

Northwest Arkansas Regional Dance will perform in the plaza just north of the Christmas tree about 30 minutes before the parade, Bland said. Justin Reed and Dustin Breazeale of Java Dudes 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’s unclear whether the tradition will continue past this year. City officials, during an annual budget review meeting Nov. 15, announced they’re ending a $100,000 contract for event planning with Downtown Rogers Inc., a division of the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce.

The money will be shifted to culture and arts programming, and the city will continue with downtown events such as concerts at Railyard Park, said John McCurdy, community development director. A private contractor will manage the farmers market, he said.

The city will not fund the Frisco Festival or the Christmas parade in 2022, according to Mayor Greg Hines.

There has been some talk about the three Rotary clubs in Rogers taking on the task of organizing the Christmas parade, Bland said.

The board of the Rotary Club of Downtown Rogers has discussed the possibility of taking ownership of the Christmas parade with help from the other two Rotary clubs in the city to run it properly, said club secretary Rick McCleod.

“No decisions have been made, and discussions are very preliminary,” McCleod said.

The Rotary Club of Rogers has volunteered to help line up the parade and help keep the parade moving and the route clear, said club President Jene Huffman-Gilreath. The club’s board has not met to discuss taking on the parade since the city made its decision in November, she said.

Rogers Early Risers Rotary Club is not in a position to take on the parade but has helped with it in the past and looks forward to helping in the future, said club President Michelle Fittro.

Behind the scenes

It takes a lot of work behind the scenes to plan a Christmas parade, according to Bland.

As soon as one year’s event is finished, Bland makes a list of notes and begins planning for the next year, she said.

Santa Claus is booked in early spring, and guidelines and rules are updated early for participants, she said. The parade has to be marketed to the public and organizations that would like to participate. Banners have to be made and sponsorships sold, Bland said.

Applications are submitted in October, and the lineup has to be planned, Bland said. Judges have to be organized and a stage and lighting must be arranged for the pre-parade dance performance. The Rotary clubs help line up cars and 14 safety elves install barrier tape before the parade and take it down after, she said.

The parade costs approximately $6,000, not counting in-kind donations from sponsors, Bland said. Sponsorships and float fees cover the cost and provide a few thousand dollars extra to get started on the next year, she said. The budget does not include the cost of a paid staff member to organize the event, which would put the parade in the red, she said.

“My budget spreadsheet is what we paid for,” she said. “It’s a whole other matter when you add in-kind support and paid staff members.”

Other cities

Bentonville, Springdale and Fayetteville all celebrate the holidays with Christmas parades.

Fayetteville’s Lights of the Ozarks parade, organized by Experience Fayetteville, is held the Friday before Thanksgiving, said Hazel Hernandez, vice president of marketing for the organization. The parade is a 25-year tradition that happens right before the mayor flips the switch to turn on the downtown Christmas lights, she said.

Springdale’s parade has been hosted by Rodeo of the Ozarks the past 24 years, according to executive director Rick Culver. The event takes place the Saturday after Thanksgiving, he said. The weather for this year’s event was beautiful and there was a huge turnout, he said.

Bentonville’s Christmas parade is organized by Downtown Bentonville Inc., according to the organization’s website. It is planned for 6 p.m. Dec. 11 around the downtown square.

Bland hopes the Christmas parade tradition will continue in Rogers and the city may even host parades for other holidays someday, she said.

“We just have a great route and great bones to have parades, and they are a great way to celebrate our community,” she said.



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