Laramie Main Street Alliance is preparing for Christmas by hosting the free Downtown Holiday Parade and Tree Lighting at 6 p.m. Friday, Downtown Laramie Business Association Vice President Denise Deem said.
“People are starting to get into the holiday spirit and they are looking for holiday stuff to do,” Deem said. “We consider the parade as one of our things that we give back to the community (to say) thank you for shopping and dining locally all year.”
Several local organizations such as schools, military organizations and youth groups participate each year in the parade and often hand out items to spread holiday cheer while representing their organizations, she said.
“The military starts the parade and Kiwanis ends the parade because they have Santa on the float,” Deem said.
“The Veterans of Foreign Wars and Marine Corps always come down and they pass out little stuffed animals for the kids and there is a lot of candy giving.”
She said the parade has grown from where it was 10 years ago, expanding from 8-10 floats to more than 25 floats that Deem is expecting this year for the crowds of people coming to the celebration.
“We get about 25 parade entries a year so it is a short parade but it is long enough to make it worthwhile to come down and see it,” Deem said. “There are thousands of people who come down to it. It is crazy, and the sidewalks are 3-5 people (thick).”
The floats are judged on their use of lights and the theme, which is a Whoville Christmas this year. The first second and third place winners can receive money prizes.
Whiting High School art teacher Rebecca Slaughter said the school won the float competition several times because they made their float unique while sticking with the theme of the parade.
“They look for lights and uniqueness and I strive at that,” Slaughter said. “We have won at least four times; (in 2016) we placed first place and we got a $50 certificate.”
When the time comes to start working on the float, her students who previously worked on it get excited to putting the float together, she said. To have it ready for the competition planning for the float starts months before the completion and it is constantly changing as the parade gets closer Slaughter said.
“You have to start in October, you find out what the theme is whenever they get that out and then start thinking of ideas,” she said.
When I start talking about it, there are several who are really excited because they participated in it the year or years before and I even get students that come and show up that hop on that have graduated.”
Whiting High School senior Aaron Sorensen said to make the float the students spend a large amount of time painting and cutting out different decorations which are pieced together before the parade starts.
“We have done a lot of painting, cutting out the wreaths, bells, trees and people, it takes a lot of work and a lot of time,” Sorensen said.
“I stay here after school to help until we leave, and whoever is here when we leave gets to ride on the float.”
Working on the school’s float became a regular holiday occurrence for Sorensen after he and his brother participated in several of the holiday parades, he said.
“I have been working on the float for three years and it is a lot of fun,” Sorensen said. “My brother has been on it with me because he graduated from here, and I’ll graduate from here in the spring so it is kind of like a tradition.”