OTTAWA — With more than 60 units, the 2016 Welcome Santa Parade in downtown Ottawa was the largest ever since its inception 24 years ago.
The parade, which was held Sunday afternoon, featured holiday-themed floats, local marching bands, Belgium horses, costume-clad dogs, classic cars, farm implements and more.
This year’s Welcome Santa Parade honored volunteer firefighters from the Ottawa Fire Department and the Glandorf Fire Department. Members of both departments marched in uniform while leading the parade.
“Usually the Chamber’s business of the year leads the parade, but this year we wanted to honor our service personnel,” said Amy Sealts, president/CEO of the Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce. “I think sometimes people take them for granted, so we wanted to thank them for what they do.”
New to this year’s parade were the Belgium horses, which towed a carriage carrying the Putnam County Habitat for Humanity’s partner family. Habitat for Humanity will build a new home for the family in 2017.
“That was really neat to see,” Sealts said. “It was their first time in a parade.”
The parade was coordinated by the Chamber and a group known as the “parade crew.” Sealts said the group is made up of around six men who live on Pratt Street in the village.
“They really are the brains organizing everything,” she said.
Putting on a parade of this magnitude is no easy task. Sealts said they start planning the event a few months ahead of time. During those months, the Chamber and its parade crew coordinate which floats will be involved, and try to drum up excitement for the event.
Once the participating floats are determined, the next step is to decide the order in which they will be displayed.
“We try to spread out the units to have a nice mix of music, vehicles and walkers,” Sealts said. “We always put the horses at the end for obvious reasons.”
This year’s parade took even more effort, as an additional 20-plus floats were registered. Sealts said the parade usually draws around 20 entries, but there were 64 in this year’s event.
Sealts said word of mouth has allowed the parade to continue growing.
“It’s a really quality event, and there’s a lot of free, fun activities for families to kick off the holiday season and feel good about their community,” she said.
Along with the parade, the event featured horse-drawn carriage rides, a visit from Santa Claus, miniature train rides, live entertainment and refreshments. These activities were sponsored by local businesses and service clubs. Sealts said the event would not be possible without these organizations and the community as a whole.
“It takes everybody working together to make this happen,” she said.
Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @bush_lima