— By Gary Perkins, Fort Gibson Chamber of Commerce
It was ironic that the theme of this year's Starlight Christmas Parade was "A Frosty Christmas in the Fort" and the weatherman produced what was probably the warmest Christmas Parade to date.
Despite the fact that there was little or no chill in the evening air, it was a wonderful parade, with what many said was a record turnout to view the procession.
According to town historians, Bill and Debbie Daniels, this year's parade was determined to be the 25th annual, as best as they could recall.
An especially large crowd was gathered at the intersection of Lee and Poplar Streets, to witness the lighting of the town's Centennial Park Christmas Tree prior to the start of the parade.
Dowe Boulter began the countdown and the switch was thrown by Tim Espe, lighting the giant tree to the delight and applause of all that were gathered.
Shortly thereafter, the sound of the Fort Gibson School's Royal Regiment Marching Band could be heard in the distance, as they made their way from the staging area at the Church of Christ parking lot.
Much thanks to those who helped in the lineup process, particularly Kathy Perkins, Cheryl Hill, Justin Young, Justin Calvert, Jack Richey and Steve Woods.
They got everyone lined up in an orderly fashion and made sure the procession started promptly. Proceeding the marching band was a police escort which included Police Chief Clint Vernon, his wife Connie and daughter Kaycee.
Following them was this year's Grand Marshal Lori Fullbright. She was riding in a special mule-drawn carriage operated by Steve and Carla Cooper.
Next in the parade were Miss Fort Gibson Erin Wilcox, Junior Miss Fort Gibson Rachel McElmurry and Miss Azalea Kadrian Shelton.
Also included in this year's parade were: Morgan Towing, Mark Wayne Mullin, Paula Sexton, Jacob Clairday, Service Master, Cub Scout Pack 638, the Bedouin Shriners, Mark Young/Edward Jones Investments, Miss Merry Christmas Nikki Fryer, Anthony Mayo's Four-Wheelers, Fort Gibson Historic Society, Arthur Hulbert, Jay and Diana Harris, Steve Cook/Eagle Landscape, Fort Gibson Youth Cheer, Subway/Mama Deluica's Pizza, Church of Christ, Faith Based Therapeutic Community Corporation, Service Pro, SonBurst Graphics, Galaxy Cheer Group, Fort Gibson Soccer Club, Muskogee Emergency Medical Service, Fort Gibson State Bank, Valley View Church, Boy Scout Troop 638, First United Methodist Church, Trinity Family Worship, Fort Gibson Q.B. Boydstun Library, Fort Gibson Fire Department, Kevin Brannon Horse Riders, along with many others on horses and walking.
At the end of the parade, riding high atop Fort Gibson's "old fire truck," was Santa Claus himself.
Jolly Old Saint Nick always brings all the children to their feet in delight. Many of the entries also threw out candy to the kid's delight, and SonBurst Graphics tossed T-shirts out to the crowds lined up along the parade route from the Church of Christ to the Fajita Rita's parking lots.
In all, it was a joyous night and great way to kick off the Christmas Season.
Special thanks has to also go out to our announcers, Dowe Boulter and Kathy Perkins, and to our three judges, Kathy Carson, Cheryl Hill and Tyler Hix.
They determined that the winners of this year's "Best Business" entry was Fort Gibson State Bank, and winner of "Best Non-Profit" entry was the Fort Gibson Historic Society.
They each received plaques as their awards.
Special thanks also to the Town of Fort Gibson, the Police Department and Fire Department for all their help in bringing in the bleachers, blocking off the streets and just making sure everyone was safe. They are the best.
Also, special thanks to SonBurst Graphics and the Coys for taking free pictures with Santa in front of Fort Gibson State Bank prior to the parade.
Everything we do is always a group effort, and the help of all those involved is greatly appreciated. Many regular citizens/bystanders helped with setup and the cleanup after the parade.
Final reminder for the month of December, our Weekly Chamber Luncheon is at Charlie's Chicken at 11:30 a.m. each Thursday. The 2012 Fort Gibson Christmas Ornaments are available at SonBurst Graphics, Fort Gibson State Bank, Armstrong Bank, Granny's Porch and the chamber office.
They are beautiful, only $10, and great gifts for out-of-town friends and relatives, as well as personal keepsakes or collector items. Don't miss out.