Annual Christmas parade a community effort




The waves of appreciation, the specialty designed floats in precise alignment, and participants marching and playing music are what spectators gaze upon at the Burtis Motors' Christmas Parade.

But that's only the finished product.

What onlookers don't see are the hours spent in making the floats, the dedication to continue a tradition, and first-timers who hope to start a long time trend.

Lined along Depot Street, parade participants were preparing themselves and their floats before the start of Saturday's annual Christmas parade in downtown Garden City.

"We have entered the old car every year except for last year," said Steve Ohl, whose first time ever missing the parade was last year.

That old car is a 1930 Dodge with a brown and black frame, tan wooden spokes, decorated with a wreath on the bumper. The car was covered in white LED lights.

Ohl said the car belongs to his mother and was restored in the early 1960s. He also said the car is decorated year-round. The Dodge has a pullout rumble seat where his mother's great-grandchildren sit, as well as inside the car.

"I think the parade is a great thing for Garden City. We enjoy it so much, and I wish it would grow more," Ohl said.

A complete opposite of the small and compact mobile antique was the Bernadine Sitts Intermediate Center and Charles O. Stones Intermediate Center 18-wheeler float.

"It's all about the kids. It's all about Christmas," said Tom Rishel, who is a vocal music teacher at the school.

Bales of hay were stacked on the bed of the 18-wheeler wrapped in Christmas lights, where Rishel said about 90 kids sat in the middle, facing out, and singing. A wooden, decorated sign that read "Merry Christmas, but don't forget why we celebrate it" stretched across the grill of the 18-wheeler.

"This shows what an incredible community we have. Downtown Garden City is still gorgeous in my eyes, and people have invested so much time to make this happen," Rishel said.

A first-year participant with a Grinch-themed float, "Welcome to Whoville," took an investment in time.

"We probably spent about 10 or 15 hours. Cutting out the bricks was the most time consuming," said Earl Avalon, who was with the Southwest Grapplers Wrestling Club.

The star of the show, Teryn Avalon, a second-grader at Jennie Wilson Elementary School who was dressed as "Cindy Lou Who," stood in the middle of two decorated cardboard and paper pillars on the bed trailer covered in cotton to emulate snow.

While most floats had the traditional Christmas themes and designs, the Garden City Riverbed Riders showcased eight of their extreme off-road UTVs showered in multiple colored lights and signs, and a giant stocking on one of the off-road vehicles.

"We do this to give back to the community, and they give back to us," said Maria Hardwick.

"What makes this parade?" Hardwick asked, "A community effort."

Another new entry was the Lee Richardson Railroad Train from the zoo that normally runs in the summer. Brian Nelson, the executive director of the Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo, drove the train with special guests Santa and Mrs. Claus along for the ride.

State Rep. John Doll, R-Garden City, was doing a bit of crowd control, but couldn't help but to look and see all the hard work that was put into the floats, and the display of the "Christmas feeling."

"This is incredible," Doll said. "It's for the kids, the community. It's just an amazing sight to see, and it's wonderful for Garden City."

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