Christmas Parade rules

Updated Photo Gallery: The people of Northeastern Oklahoma made the point clear.  In massive numbers they celebrated Christ’s Mass together.  All were welcome.  The Tulsa Christmas Parade Saturday at the Tulsa Hills office and retail center celebrated the spirit of the season with peace on earth, good will to men, Santa, clowns, antique autos and tractors, beauty queens and marching units of all kinds while the crowd filled over 3,000 parking spaces and gridlocked traffic in all directions for several miles.  Yes America, we know the reason for the season and a solution resolving dispute.

Sadly, some media that for weeks covered what they poorly summarized as “dueling parades” did not universally or accurately report on the outcome.  Specifically, the daily newspaper spun like a mad hatter’s top to portray equality between the parades.  It was not equal.  The Holiday Parade downtown featured 66 units while the Tulsa Christmas Parade featured 100 units. While quoted in the story as a parade organizer, the daily reporter did not include my specific estimate of 30,000 in attendance at the Tulsa Christmas Parade.  Of that, approximately 15,000 were watching the parade with the other 15,000 stuck in traffic.

It was a beautiful day, cold and crisp with a bright sun as the first volunteers arrived on site.  After weeks of planning in countless hours of detailed discussions – it was show-time.

Just organizing 100 units to march is a challenge, but the site offered a unique area behind the retail stores – a loading dock half as long and twice as wide as the parade route.  Every foot of space was filled as “topping-off” decorations were added to each float and marchers, horses, alpacas and general farm animals awaited the call.

Rhonda Walker of Inland American which manages the commercial complex said, “All our tenants are pleased and the manager of Michaell’s told me sales in their store [an hour before the parade] were greater than the total of sales on the day after Thanksgiving.”  Sixteen retail merchants in the complex offered coupons to parade goers in a brochure produced by Inland America.

Traffic grew as parade time approached and organizers next year will specify earlier arrival times for City crews with barricades and police to manage traffic.

Radio Station Mix96 was a parade sponsor and it was understood that they would broadcast the parade live.  This was planned to provide running commentary, interview those attending and advise those traveling on current traffic issues.  This did not happen and it was a significant misunderstanding if not a contractual failure.

However, Tulsa Christmas Parade goers were very gracious.  Looking west from the parade to Highway 75, hundreds of cars could be seen parked along the highway as people walked into the site.  News station KRMG said traffic was backed up for miles in every direction.  People sent texts of greetings and best wishes while acknowledging that they could not make it to the parade site because of the heavy traffic.

Smiles and laughter of children in the parade and those watching brightened the hearts of all.  There was joy and laughter in abundance.  Merry Christmas.

National news covered the dueling parade angle with some interesting results.  A national FOX News story quotes “Tulsa mom Heather Hope-Hernandez” without identifying her as the Holiday Parade Spokeswoman.

“Frankly, I have for many years referred to it as the parade of lights; it made no difference to me and my family,” Hernandez said, who added that she is eager to take her 2-year-old downtown this weekend to see the parade and snag a glimpse of the big man himself, Santa Claus. “As the world gets smaller and we come in contact with other people who are not like ourselves or practice other religions, it seems to be a no-brainer to open your arms to celebrate with them because they’re your neighbors,” she said.  Click here for the full story by FOX News.

This then is the core of the controversy – is Christmas inclusive?  Christians believe so and at the Tulsa Christmas Parade any faith or no faith was welcome.  Of the 100 parade units, only 25 were sponsored by area Churches.

Must Christians set aside their faith because others are not of the same faith?  For hundreds of years in America the answer was no.  The Constitution acknowledges faith, saying only that the State cannot officially designate one religion over another.  More importantly, the Declaration of Independence which outlines the objectives accomplished by the specifics of the Constitution states in the second paragraph, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Maybe Holiday Parade organizers should also note the first paragraph of the same Declaration which begins, “When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another …”

It was the Holiday Parade that made the decision to be exclusive – forbidding the name of Christmas from the annual parade in Tulsa that long carried the name.  No amount of sponsorship money could have sponsored the name “Christmas” back into the title of the 2011 downtown event.  We know.  We pleaded with the Holiday Parade Organizer to allow that inclusion.  We offered to gather whatever money they might require, but their hardheartedness would not allow inclusion at any price.  This from a group incorporated under the name “Tulsa Charity Christmas Parade, Inc.,” the private organization producing the Holiday Parade.

Just think how all 166 floats from both parades would have been so much fun in one.

National news of this historic event in Tulsa continues.  Radio and television interviews are booked for next week and media can arrange additional interviews by calling Tulsa Today at 918.592.6397.

For Christians who honor Christmas tired of the creeping tyranny of political correctness throughout America the answer is in the Tulsa experience.  Make your own parade.  Plan ahead.  Investigate special event permits in your city.  Find sponsors.  Organize volunteers.  Promote the purpose of the event and God’s people, regardless of individual faith, will come in overwhelming numbers.  Don’t’ fear media spin.  Ignore the critics.  Don’t lose hope.  Stand on principle and work hard to accomplish the goal.

There are four founding members of the Board of Directors of Tulsa Christmas Parade LLC and I am glad to be one.  We have often disagreed.  Our approaches to planning differed and the inside joke was a question of surviving differences without exploding Type-A personalities.  We did find meetings went better when begun by prayer.

Fundamentally critical to success were the many volunteers including Melisa, Patty, Jason, Nathan, Justin, Carolyn, Darren, and many others of great help.  Additional hundreds helped build floats and organize participation and attendance.

Next year, the Tulsa Christmas Parade will begin sooner (mid-January comes to mind) to organize the event with more attention to overflow parking and traffic control.  Tulsa Today is also providing a survey for the next few weeks to ask which Saturday in December readers would prefer to hold the parade.  You can vote on the top right of each page.  The previous poll asking which parade (Christmas or Holiday) our readers support ran 90 percent in favor of the Christmas Parade.

The Tulsa Christmas Parade thanks all for their support, participation, and attendance.  May God bless you this holiday season and throughout the coming year.  To reach the Facebook page for Tulsa Christmas Parade, click here.

Photographs of the Tulsa Christmas Parade 2011 in this story are by Bland Bridenstine, click here to see more on Facebook.

Tulsa Today Photographer Kevin Pyle also shot hundreds of images posted at this gallery both before and during the parade. Photos may be purchased for those participants and friends who would like a copy.

Additional media on the Tulsa Christmas Parade may be found at the following links:

World Magazine
A radio interview with Dr. Everett Piper, President, Oklahoma Wesleyan University and Tulsa Christmas Parade Grand Marshal, click here.

A radio interview with David Arnett, Tulsa Christmas Parade Organizer, click here.

Previous stories published on Tulsa Today:

Tulsa Christmas Parade Announced

Christmas Parade Update 11/21

Why Parade for Christmas: A personal view

Do trains lead somewhere?

Tulsa’s largest Christmas Parade Saturday