Yes Virginia, there will be a Tulsa Christmas Parade Saturday December 10, 2011 at 6 pm in the Tulsa Hills shopping center just east of Highway 75 on Olympia Avenue between 71st and 81st Streets South. With apologies to regular readers, this news has broken elsewhere specifically because Tulsa Today is sponsoring and this writer helping organize the event. From that perspective, all media should have an equal chance to cover breaking news.
How could a Tulsa Christmas Parade be controversial? Unfortunately in previous years, local decisions by downtown parade organizers made national news and entertainment programs including Jon Stewart’s hit “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central.
Today’s news is not political as one broadcast station’s representative
suggested saying “Christmas is not inclusive therefore the parade must
be political.” No, I answered, it is cultural, historical and important.
To take the name Christmas from a parade honoring the holiday because some Tulsa residents may not be Christians is silly if not pointless tyranny. Should we change Independence Day because some British-Americans believe the USA should have remained colonies of the crown? Of course not. Someone will always disagree which is a good thing among civilized people and why the Constitution of the United States of America allows individuals to decide maters of faith and religion – thus all are free.
This year’s parade location features; easy expressway and major thoroughfare access, plentiful parking, diverse family dining and abundant retail shopping. The Tulsa Hills shopping center is Tulsa’s newest and fastest-growing retail area.
The date and time of the Tulsa Christmas Parade were decided by the committee of private individuals who recently formed Tulsa Christmas Parade LLC. The parade will not receive public money. So what is the controversy?
For 70 some years, Downtown Tulsa held a Christmas Parade. The original purpose was to encourage residents to patronize downtown retail stores. As shopping patterns changed over the decades, retail shops fled Tulsa’s downtown as they did in most American cities. However, downtown remains the place most Tulsa parades occur.
In the spirit of full disclosure, Tulsa Today and my residence are both located downtown. I love downtown Tulsa. It is a great place to live and work. I walk to many client offices and, over the last decade, I drive less than a third the miles average Americans do each year. It’s nice to have 30,000 people in the neighborhood during the work day.
I could write of the disadvantages, but every neighborhood has good and bad points. The frequency of downtown traffic disturbance is heavy as every BOK Center event and most events downtown impact life almost daily. On the other hand, I knew that before I moved downtown and, when balancing the good with the bad, I find downtown Tulsa a great place to live and work. Many personal friends are owners, operators, investors or loyal patrons of downtown establishments. Many of them have called or commented by social media, some with encouragement and others complaining that the Tulsa Christmas Parade this year at the Tulsa Hills is some kind of threat to the prosperity of certain downtown enterprises, but why should that be the case? Other parts of Tulsa hold parades. Is there a trademark on “Christmas Parade” that determines ownership even when the downtown parade refuses to include the name?
Tulsa Christmas Parade LLC approached Tulsa Charity Christmas Parade, Inc. (the downtown parade group) and offered to help them with time, talent and money. Our first and oft repeated stipulation was for them to return the name of Christmas to the title of the downtown parade. They refused. We asked what amount of money it would take to buy the name of Christmas back into the title and they provided a significant number to which we replied, “So if we cut you a check for that amount, will that ensure the name change.” They said they would have to get back with a response. That response was that they would “love” to have our resources, but the name would not include Christmas.
Participation in the downtown December parade has declined since 2007. Tulsans protested publicly in 2009 and in 2010 when organizers solicited participation using the name of Christmas only to, again, not include Christmas in the title. In the spirit of full disclosure, I protested to the City Council in 2010 in objection to what I believe was; fraud in their solicitation, betrayal of a 70-year history, and general arrogance in not listening to what people were trying to tell organizers. I did not dwell on the irony of a group incorporated under a name they so adamantly refuse to use in the title of the parade at the Tulsa City Council.
Now the downtown group says they are titling the event to be inclusive, but if that was their intent, why did no one from Tulsa Charity Christmas Parade, Inc. seek out and speak with protesters. If they were really inclusive by nature, they would have worked to resolve all dispute years ago. To the contrary, they appear angry that anyone would challenge their authority.
Now I speak for myself in the history of this issue, but what is past repair should be past regard. The future is far more important. Those working on the Tulsa Christmas Parade wish the downtown effort all success, but we are moving forward in the most positive way possible.
Updates on the Tulsa Christmas Parade successes will be posted here as more sponsors, floats, and marching bands are added. The telephone number for parade float applications and general information is 918.583.2345 and volunteers are standing by to take your calls during normal business hours. A special coordinator is also available to help those that would like to help build floats find a float to help build. This is a community effort and we call on all those with stagecraft experience past or present to join the Tulsa Christmas Parade. Yes, time is short and building a marquee float is a complicated task, but we can do this together.
Merry Christmas Tulsa