As decorative floats lined Palatine Park on Monday night, residents from all over Marion County lined the streets of Fairmont, eagerly waiting for the Fairmont Christmas parade to begin.
With temperatures in the 40s and dropping, a few volunteers from a local church were ready to offer parade goers a way to warm up.
“We’ve been handing out free hot chocolate at this parade for years,” said Rose Marie Henderson of Mount Zion United Methodist Church.
Henderson said the church used to have a float in the parade but it became too much work. Instead, Mount Zion UMC decided it would pass out free hot chocolate at the parade.
“This is a way we can still give back to the community,” Henderson said. “And here, the hot chocolate goes fast.”
The church brought 17 gallons of hot chocolate to the parade to give away. Jim Henderson said almost every year they have run out of product.
“We’ve been doing this for several years,” he said. “I recognize adults who came here as children and continue to come back. With a night like this, we’re sure to run out.”
Like Mount Zion UMC, which will continue to provide free hot chocolate at future Fairmont Christmas parades, several residents make it a tradition every year to come to the parade, but there are others who can only make it out occasionally.
Ed and Linda Stalnaker of Boothsville participated in this year’s Christmas parade for the second time in several years. The two drove their original 1966 Ford Bronco in the parade.
“It’s been turned into a tow truck for display,” Ed said.
Although it’s not a functional wrecker, the Stalnakers were able to hang a small lit Christmas tree from it for the parade. Ed even added his own Fairmont touch to it.
“In the bed of the truck there’s a brick from the Fairmont Brick Co.,” he said.
Ed said one of his favorite things about the Christmas season is its origin.
“I like the Christian personality of it,” he said. “It’s good to see that we’re not getting taken over with all the advertisements and all that. Just keep Christ in Christmas.”
One of the things the Stalnakers do each year is make sure they never abbreviate Christmas.
“We always make it a point to spell out Christmas,” Ed said.
Carol Baker, parade organizer, said the Fairmont Christmas parade kicks off the holiday season.
“It’s not Christmas season until we have the Christmas parade,” she said. “I’m just like a kid when this one comes around.”
The first Christmas parade Baker organized was in 1998, and she has been in charge off and on since. She said every year she tries to make the parade like it was in the 1950s.
“It takes me back to the ’50s when this town had great parades,” Baker said. “I’m trying to bring those parades back.”
Baker said it helps when others are willing to help.
“We have a lot of willing people who will just come out and help in a heartbeat,” she said.
Baker said she started planning the parade in September and a lot of hard work has gone into putting the parade together.
“I lost my voice calling people, telling them where they were lined up,” she said. “But in the end, this is just Christmas for me.”
Email Emily Gallagher at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @EGallagherTWV.