Families sit beside Mass Street to look at a horse-drawn carriage

Families watch horse-drawn carriages parade down Mass Street during annual Lawrence Christmas Parade.

Horses clothed in period garb pranced down Mass Street to ring in the Christmas season at the 29th annual Lawrence Old Fashioned Christmas Parade on Dec. 3.

Julia DeYounge, the marketing director for the parade, said the parade was founded in 1993 after Rob Phillips, former majority owner of the Eldridge Hotel, participated in a wagon train event across the country.

“He came up with the idea after seeing the crowds that loved seeing everybody go through their town,” DeYounge said. 

According to DeYounge, the parade started with six entries. This year at the parade’s 29th anniversary, there were around 12 mounted riding groups, 54 carriages, wagons and other horse-pulled vehicles. 

“One of the things that’s very unique about the parade is that it’s only horse-drawn or horse entries,” DeYounge said. “They have to have either authentic, historic or authentic reproductions of vehicles.”

Most of the entries decorate and dress in period accurate clothing or Christmas attire, said DeYounge.

This dress code evokes a feeling of being transported to the past, which contributes to the Lawrence Christmas Parade’s national reputation as a unique Christmas tradition. 

For Lawrence, the parade is an homage to its rich history.

“I think it goes back to Lawrence having a strong respect and interest in its history,” DeYounge said. 

In the spirit of Christmas, the parade is popular amongst families and locals for kicking off the holiday season. 

“It’s become a family-oriented event and a chance for people to gather with friends and family,” DeYounge said. 

Lawrence resident Tisha Cullen said the parades showcase the magic of the Christmas season.

“I love the gentleness of the parade itself,” Cullen said. “It has a quiet ease to it that I appreciate.”

People from out of town were also enjoyed their first time at the parade. Nicole Cogua, a freshman at KU from Omaha, Nebraska, appreciated the small-town feel of the event. 

“I liked how I saw a lot of kids and their parents because this is more of a college town,” Cogua said. “t’s more like everyone’s coming together to watch.” 

Some first-timers even look forward to making the parade a holiday tradition

Carissa Levingston, a KU freshman from Frisco, Texas, she said she would attend net year’s parade. 

“The whole small town came out and watched and it was really cool,” Levingston said.

Although the Lawrence Christmas Parade has come and gone, it leaves behind an infectious spirit of camaraderie and community pride.