By Travis Sloat
Several hundred people lined the streets of downtown Fort Gibson on Monday night for the 25th annual Starlight Christmas Parade.
While jackets and long-sleeve shirts weren’t completely missing, most left theirs at home, opting instead for shorts and short sleeve shirts — befitting the 70-degree temperatures on the parade route.
The parade started with the traditional lighting of the town Christmas tree, a brilliantly lit behemoth sitting in the town square.
The crowd was led in a countdown from five to zero, then the tree came to life with a “Merry Christmas. Light it up!” from the emcee.
Once lit, all attention turned towards the street as it filled with floats, trailers, horses and more — all decorated in sparkling lights and Christmas attire.
Andrew Sparks, an 8-year-old from Fort Gibson, said his favorite float was anything pulled by a tractor.
“They looked country,” he said.
Sparks also had a sister in the Fort Gibson Youth Cheerleading squad, and he said he was definitely cheering for her.
“I like watching the parades,” Sparks said, “but it is more fun being in them. I’m ready for next year’s parade already.”
This year’s judges were Tyler Hicks, Kathy Carson and Cheryl Hill.
They definitely had their work cut out for them, as each float went above and beyond trying to show their Christmas cheer.
The floats were divided into two sections for the awards: The business sector and the non-profit sector.
Taking top honors for the businesses was Fort Gibson State Bank, whose float was replete with a snow queen.
On the non-profit side, the Fort Gibson Historical Society claimed first prize with their authentic historical float that including a cannon rigged with lights made to look as though it was firing.
Tosha and Pat Brown, along with their sons, both agreed the Fort Gibson Fire Department had the best float.
“I’ve been to the last 10 parades,” Tosha said. “I really enjoyed the tree lighting. Our son Aiden has made us drive by every night asking when it will be lit up.”
Children ran up and down the candy-lined intersection of Lee and Poplar streets, snatching all the goodies they could.
They cheered for their favorite floats as they went by, and some booed The Grinch as he tried to pass for Santa by dressing in a red suit.
No one was fooled though, and when the real Santa drove by on a fire truck, the crowd roared it’s appreciation — just as it roared with laughter at the fireman stuck in a smoking chimney just before.
There were also appearances by the Subway pizza man, Boy Scout Troop 638 rowing in canoes and the Shriners with their clowns, motorcycles and horses.
Brown said she thinks the Fort Gibson Starlight Christmas Parade is a great thing for the town.
“It’s good for business, and look how many people were out here tonight,” Brown said. “This is a wonderful event.”