Parade of Lights ushers in the holiday season

Ben Kearney, News Reporter

Community members gather in Downtown Walla Walla for the annual Parade of Lights. Photo by Aidan Tribolet.

December in Walla Walla always starts off merrily with the annual Holiday Parade of Lights. Held the first Saturday in December, the event is organized by the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation and features lots of lit-up floats and spectators who help herald the main streets of Walla Walla.

The parade travels east on Alder Street to Spokane Street, then from Spokane Street to Main Street and finally from Main Street to Sixth Avenue. The various floats of the parade — festively decorated vehicles and trailers advertising local Walla Walla businesses, schools and retirement homes — dazzled the bundled up crowds on the sidewalks.

The crowd was filled with people from all over Walla Walla, including Whitman students. Sophomore Reese Lowenberg claimed that the parade always contributes to her holiday spirit.

“It really gets me into the holiday spirit because you see how excited everyone is and how happy they are to be there,” Lowenberg said. “Sometimes it’s hard to step back and look at the bigger picture when everyone at school is on the cusp of finals and starting to study. I’ve been stressed lately, so this was a welcome distraction that reminded me just how fun it is to be a part of a community during the holiday season.”

Sophomore Ona Gallimore was another Whitman student in attendance. For Gallimore, the parade reminds her of togetherness and the advent of the holiday season.

“I enjoy the sense of community you feel as everyone is gathered around to watch the parade,” Gallimore said. “The parade reminds me [of] how quickly the holidays are approaching and excites me to return home to celebrate with my family. It’s also a nice way to celebrate with friends before many of us part for the month-long break.”

Tina Baumann, the executive director of The Kid’s Place (TKP) on Marcus Street, described how many of her kids were in attendance at the parade enjoying the various floats.

“TKP children who attended the parade loved the horses, the large trucks with loud horns and beautiful lights, the music and the inflatable Grinch,” Baumann said.

Baumann shared that this was the first year that The Kid’s Place was involved directly in the event, and the kids made several banners for the parade.

“This was our first time participating in the parade,” Baumann said. “TKP children created three banners (Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and Christmas banners), and families decorated their wagons and strollers with lights. We really enjoyed the experience. TKP children are already planning a float for next year’s parade.”

With several of the Walla Walla schools participating in the festivities, Lowenberg was surprised to see Whitman not included in the parade and believes it could be because of what she referred to as the “Whitman bubble effect.”

“There are probably other reasons for this, but I feel like a big one is we often stick to our bubble on campus and don’t often step outside to be a part of the community, at least in this regard,” Lowenberg said. “I think it comes down to Whitman making a conscious effort to show its support for the Walla Walla community and identify as a part of said community.”

If Whitman were to participate in future parades, Gallimore had a few ideas. 

“Whitman is part of the Walla Walla community, and I think we should be allowed to participate in the yearly light parade,” Gallimore said. “I’m not sure what our contribution should be — perhaps a wintery landscape with the Blues or something more simple.”

Lowenberg also contributed some creative ideas for what a future float could look like.

“There are so many different things we could do, but I think it’d be really cool to be a part of it. Even if it was something simple, like handing out candy canes, we would still be contributing something to the parade,” Lowenberg said. “We are, technically, a part of this Walla Walla community as much as we are part of the Whitman community; I think we should show it.”