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Christmas parade expects to set record

Published 11:32am Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Dowagiac’s 31st annual Christmas parade expects to set a record Friday night with 119 units, up from 111 in 2011.

“The ambience is the draw. It’s a magical night,” fourth-year organizer Trish Brazo, of Huntington Bank in Niles, said Tuesday.

Led by Grand Marshal Tom Atkinson, the retiring public safety director who will light the Hospice bell tree, accompanied by his wife, Judge Susan Dobrich, and grandson, Ethan Kastelic.

Atkinson, a Union High School graduate, became Dowagiac police chief in August 1997 after his first retirement as Cass County Sheriff’s Office chief detective. He will become Southwestern Michigan College chief of staff in July. He became public safety director over the police and fire departments in 2008 and serves on the Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital Board of Directors and Lewis Cass Intermediate School District Board of Education.

While most don’t remember the first Saturday afternoon parade or how it grew when Vickie Phillipson made it a lighted Friday evening event, some do.

North Red Hill 4-H, with 65 youth and more than 40 leaders, has perfect attendance.

Leading the horse group with help from Tina Wolski is Gloria Sobieski, with 48 years as a leader and four generations in 4-H; 58-year leader Virginia Edgerly, representing six generations of her family; and her daughter, key leader Bonnie McCarthy, also a leader for 48 years.

Horses and members will all be decked out in red-and-white holiday attire and holiday lights.

Parade units compete for five Chamber of Commerce awards:

• Grinch’s Grimace for best overall entry “stealing the show”

• Santa’s Choice for best float and/or motorized entry

• Dowagiac Borealis for best use of light

• Babes in Toyland for best children’s entry

• Carolers for best musical entry

Last year, Brazo introduced a community sing-along, which this year adds an accordion.

“Like Charlie Brown, holding hands around the tree and singing,” said Brazo, who said she hopes for a light sprinkling of snow rather than rain.

First United Methodist Church’s handbell choir performs at 6:15, followed by Atkinson lighting the tree at 6:30 and the sing-along lasting until the parade steps off at 7 led by Town Crier Franklin Ward.

It takes about 20 volunteers, including CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) and Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) to line up units over several blocks.

Charlie Troop follows Atkinson, then all manner of dance troupes, queens, from Miss Dowagiac to Blossomtime royalty, politicians, such as state Sen. John Proos, of St. Joseph, and state Rep. Matt Lori, of Constantine, SMC Symphonic Band and units from across the area, including Niles, Eau Claire, Cassopolis, Edwardsburg, Sister Lakes, Wayne Township and Indian Lake. Abraham Lincoln is bringing his wife.




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