WINSLOW, Ariz. - The Winslow Chamber of Commerce and the city of Winslow present the 68th annual Christmas Parade Saturday at 1 p.m. This annual event is one of the largest parades in northern Arizona, drawing residents and visitors alike from all around the state, with as many as 10,000 attendees in previous years, many of them Native American.
In recognition of the importance of family, this year's theme for the Winslow Christmas parade is "Christmas Caroling Clans." Bob Hall, executive director of the Winslow Chamber of Commerce, said that, in part, the theme reflects the tremendous participation from the Navajo and Hopi reservations.
"We really wanted to highlight that," Hall said.
Navajo County Supervisor for District 2, Jesse Thompson, who is Navajo, is the Grand Marshall for the parade this year.
"It is kind of a shout out and thank you for their years of participation," Hall said.
In past years the Santa Fe All Indian Marching Band, which started in the 1930s and performed through the 1950s, were on hand, though there are fewer members around now. Alumni have scattered far and wide but many of
them came to Winslow last year for the first time in 49 years to march in the parade.
The parade, which always takes place the week before Thanksgiving, heads along Historic Route 66 with both Second and Third streets closed down for the parade route.
"It's a great way to kick off the holiday season," Hall said. "It gets the holiday spirit rolling in you and it's fun."
The parade lasts about three hours. Hall said he expects anywhere from 80 to 100 entries. Many dignitaries and Native American royalty will be on hand and Native American dancers, among others, will perform.
"We always have great participation in terms of attendance," Hall said. "People come from all around to see the Winslow parade. It's a big deal."
This year there will be a toddlers' carnival along with other activities that go on all day starting at 9 a.m.
"There are thousands of people roaming the streets in downtown Winslow all day long," Hall said. "[The toddlers' carnival] gives little ones something more to do."
The proceeds collected from the carnival will go toward the Winslow fireworks fund, which is used on the Fourth of July.
"Any support we get from the community at the carnival, that's helping to add to the coffers of the fireworks fund," Hall said.
Santa Claus will visit Winslow, too. In addition to bringing up the rear of the parade, he will be at the Winslow Visitor Center (523 W. Second Street) from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. There will be face painting for the kids, which is free, and Santa will hand out goodie bags.
Shopping locally is another theme of the parade. The tradition began in 1946 when the Chamber chose to sponsor an event that would start the holiday season and encourage residents to shop local. Hall said that the city and local businesses all get into the event by participating in the parade, opening their shops and being an integral part of the annual festival.
"There are hundreds of vendors that show up," Hall said. "Arts and crafts and jewelry, toys, and food," Hall said. "Lots of food."
Vendors will line both Second and Third Streets, where visitors can stroll looking at arts and crafts, clothing, jewelry, toys, holiday decorations and more. The stores will all be open and the streets closed.
Last year, Tom McCauley, who owns the Arizona 66 Trading Company, said people should come early and stay late so they can enjoy the homemade crafts, baked goods and good food. And that local businesses and artisans depend on people coming out to shop.
McCauley's trading company supports about 45 different local artists who represent a mix of talent that is in Winslow and the surrounding area.
He said there is an important cycle that happens when goods are bought from his store. The artist takes the money and is able to support their family by buying goods from stores in Winslow, the city ends up with the sales tax and is able to work on capital improvement projects.
Hall said in addition the parade brings lots of people home who may have grown up in Winslow or in the area and live elsewhere. They line the parade route or participate in the parade.
"It has just become over the years, this is the 68th annual, the longest continuously annual parade in northern Arizona," Hall said. "It's such a huge event and a great opportunity to socialize and reunion."
Hall said while the chamber sponsors the event, it is a city-wide undertaking with a lot of help from many in the community.
Hall said the parade is a great opportunity for businesses to advertise, too with a built in audience of thousands of people.
More information is available at http://winslowarizona.org/68th-annual-christmas-parade/.