The Christmas season gets off to a big start the Friday and Saturday evenings after Thanksgiving as both Gering and Scottsbluff will host holiday parades through the downtown area.
The festivities start on Friday, Nov. 25 in downtown Gering. Now in its 11th year, the Christmas Parade is sponsored by the Gering Merchants.
“We don’t have a theme this year,” said Merchants member RaNae Garton. “We decided to open it up and let people be creative with how they want to decorate their floats.”
Garton said she’s already receiving entries for the parade, but there’s still time to register. Call Parade Chairman Kevin Sandberg at 308-672-3682 to get all the details.
Parade entries start gathering at 5 p.m. at Gardner Park in Gering and judging takes place between 5:15 and 5:45. Cash prizes will be awarded for the best entries: $100 for first place, $75 for second and $50 for third.
The parade through downtown Gering starts at 6 p.m. from 10th and P Streets, ending at the Gering Civic Center parking lot. Santa, who’s always at the end of the parade, will hold court at Santa’s Village at the Civic Center, greeting kids who will tell the jolly elf what they want for Christmas. The Gering Merchants will serve hot chocolate, cookies and goodie bags that evening as well.
“Santa will open Santa’s Village at the end of the parade,” Garton said. “Kids can drop off their letters and families can tour the village and play in the buildings. It’s a great family activity.
Parade entrants are encouraged to bring their floats across the river the next night on Nov. 26 for the Downtown Scottsbluff Holiday Parade.
The evening starts with food vendors setting up in the 18th Street Plaza area from 5 – 8 p.m.
The Elks Club on First Avenue will also host a $5 soup supper for the public from 5-8 p.m.
Setup for the parade starts at 5:15 p.m. at 1st Avenue and 20th Street in Scottsbluff. The parade through downtown Scottsbluff starts at 6 p.m. After the parade, there will be free hot chocolate and pictures with Santa at the 18th Street Plaza.
Parade organizer Angela Kembel of Cappuccino and Company said they’ll be taking entries until the day of the parade because there’s no entry form to fill out. She said she’s ready to answer any questions at 308-765-0599.
“We’re looking for float entries from any and all businesses, individuals, causes, clubs, groups, organizations, and bands in Scottsbluff and Gering,” Kembel said. “We would like to extend a heartfelt invitation to all Gering Parade floats, asking them to join the Scottsbluff parade the next night. We encourage our participants to join the Gering parade the night before, so each city has a robust parade and groups and businesses can have maximum exposure.”
All floats are required to be lit up in some way for safety, visibility and festivity, and since candy is not to be thrown from floats, walkers are needed to distribute candy or flyers. A Santa and a Grinch are already chosen for the parade, so organizers ask that these characters not be duplicated.
No sign-up fee is required, although donations to the Downtown Association are appreciated, as a Christmas tree will be purchased for the 18th Street Plaza. Other fun ideas are in the works as well, so visit the event page for the Downtown Scottsbluff Christmas Parade 2016 on Facebook to stay informed.
Kembel asked that attendees bring a battery powered portable radio along. The parade will be broadcast live on 99.3 FM, along with Christmas music.
The fun activities don’t stop with the season opening parades. Santa’s Village at the Gering Civic Center will be open for the next four Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Nov. 26, Dec. 3, 10 and 17 for the kids to stop by and visit. It’s also a great opportunity to get some pictures of Santa’s Village.
Garton said that because of several requests for Santa’s Village to be open at night, it will be open from 5 – 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 23.
O the day of Dec. 3, area attractions will also help celebrate the season as Legacy of the Plains Museum hosts its High Plains Christmas event and the Scotts Bluff National Monument hosts Christmas on the Prairie. Both events are free. At Legacy of the Plains, kids can write a letter to Santa that will be delivered via Pony Express rider to Santa’s Village.
Everyone is invited to help the community kick off the holiday season in Gering and Scottsbluff and be downtown to join in the festivities.