Christmas Carriage Parade Ushers In Holiday Spirit With Equestrian Flair
By Kim MacMillan
All photos, unless otherwise noted, are by Allen and Kim MacMillan and Tammy Brown/Copyright MacMillan Photography. Photos may not be reproduced without permission. Photos are available for purchase at email@example.com or 260-468-2392.
The historic city of Lebanon, Ohio, is magically transformed into a holiday wonderland the first Saturday in December every year when their annual Christmas carriage parade comes to town. This year was the 26th year for the Lebanon Christmas Festival and Carriage Parade. In 2014 the parade included over 100 entries from four states.
Parade entries ranged from Minis pulling small wagons up to six-horse draft teams pulling beer wagons and include many restored antique carriages and sleighs. Over 20 different breeds of horses and ponies, as well as donkeys and mules, pulled the various carriages, carts and wagons in the 2014 parade. Entries were decorated for the holidays and the drivers, passengers and grooms were dressed for the occasion, many in period costumes styled to match the antique vehicles. This year’s parade dignitaries included Santa and Mrs. Claus, the mayor of Lebanon and the Grinch, who in this case, happily, did not steal Christmas.
There are two parades each year, one right after lunch in the afternoon and another in the evening when the lanterns on the carriages and the Christmas lights lining the streets create a magical atmosphere. The entire city of Lebanon gets into the spirit with a street festival and holiday happenings including: free horse-drawn wagon rides; tours of the historic Golden Lamb Inn and the 18th century Glendower Mansion; photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus; rides on the North Pole Express vintage train; a gingerbread house display; a Christmas play at the local theatre; “Winter Wonderland” at a local tree farm; a living nativity; breakfast with Santa; a holiday light display, and live entertainment on the downtown stage.
Sara Arseneau of the Lebanon Chamber of Commerce talked about what the carriage parade means to the residents of the area, “The Lebanon Carriage Parade and Christmas Festival is the largest all horse-drawn carriage parade in the United States and is the largest holiday kickoff in Ohio. Words just cannot describe the feeling of magic that our horsemen and these two parades bring to Lebanon.”
Nancy Jackson, the President of the Ohio Valley Carriage Club (OVCC), talked about the parade and her reasons for participating for so many years, “The parade has grown into a significant tourist event. Last year they had around 200,000 visitors. Lots of things keep me coming back to the parade. The camaraderie first comes to mind, wonderful horse people of like minds. The next reason for me would be the historical significance of horse-drawn vehicles. Most of the vehicles are antiques. The idea of having horse-drawn vehicles in a town as beautiful as Lebanon is really meaningful. When you consider that our country was built on horse power, it is nice to remind ourselves about it once in awhile. It’s also fun to play dress up!”
Another long-time parade participant and resident of Lebanon, Linda Freeman, proudly conveyed Santa and Mrs. Claus into town this year driving her two Hackney Horses to an antique sleigh (put on runners for the parade). “This is the twenty-third time I have been in the parade. It’s changed a lot; I’ve used different horses and carriages over the years. It’s always fun dressing up in Victorian costumes and ‘pretending’ for the parade. I like to participate in the parade because I am an enthusiastic, recreational driver and I like to use my horses in as many different situations as I can. It is fun. It takes hours and hours and hours of work to get ready for a parade like this, but it is a neat opportunity to give something back to the community by volunteering to be in the parade,” said Freeman.
Lebanon, which was founded in 1802, is situated about half way between Dayton and Cincinnati just east of Interstate 75 and to the north of Interstate 71. Famous former Lebanon residents include astronaut Neil Armstrong who lived with his family on a farm outside of the city after his lunar landing mission, actor Woody Harrelson of Cheers fame, and Thomas Corwin, governor of Ohio from 1840 – 1842 and U.S. Senator from 1844 – 1850. Two motion pictures were filmed in Lebanon, Harper Valley PTA starring Barbara Eden in 1979 and Milk Money featuring Ed Harris and Melanie Griffith in 1994.
Beyond the arts and craft booths at the Christmas Festival, Lebanon has a plethora of shopping and dining opportunities including a large antique mall, many small specialty shops and the Golden Lamb Inn. The inn was built in 1803 and is on the National Historic Register. Twelve U.S. presidents from John Quincy Adams to George W. Bush and a large number of other famous people including Mark Twain, Charles Dickens and Harriet Beecher Stowe have stayed in the inn. Festival attendees can dine in the inn or take a peek at the rooms where these famous people have stayed.
We wish we could show you every entry in the 2014 parade, but space does not allow. They were all awesome! See below a sampling of the entries. We encourage you to experience the parade for yourself in 2015!
Next year’s Lebanon Christmas Festival is Saturday, December 5, 2015, with parades at 1 and 7 p.m. Eastern Time. Other festival activities run from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information about attending or participating in the Lebanon Christmas Carriage Parade and Festival contact the Lebanon Chamber of Commerce, 513-932-1100 or firstname.lastname@example.org or go to http://www.lebanonchamber.org/.