NORMAN — The historic Sooner Theatre, built in 1929, was the perfect backdrop on Saturday for the annual Norman Christmas parade.
Dozens of floats, children dancing, drummers drumming, horses trotting, and dogs a prancing drifted past the theater as the parade made its way along Main Street. On the Sooner Theatre marquee, the iconic Christmas play, “It’s a Wonderful Life” seemed as much a description of Norman as an invitation to see the show.
Despite temperatures at the freezing mark and high winds that felt like they blew in with Santa from the North Pole, Norman showed up. In blankets and parkas, sitting in vehicles with the hatchback up, or bouncing up and down to stay warm, the community came out for the parade.
Chris Haynes ventured up and down the street, selling pink and blue clouds of cotton candy.
“It’s pretty cold,” he admitted, but his business was as brisk as the weather with parents shelling out dollars to treat their kids — and often themselves — to a candy-coated fluff of nostalgia.
Suzette McDowell, chair of the Cleveland County Democrats said this was the first year in about a decade that she watched the parade from the sidelines instead of riding the Democrats’ float.
“I actually got smart and let other people do it this year,” McDowell said.
She, like many Norman residents, increased her volunteer and civic involvement after she retired. Once a school teacher, McDowell said the parade is just one of many community events she cares about, and she noted that Norman would be much poorer without the hard work of its senior citizen volunteers.
Canvas Bradford is 8-years-old and he’s attended the Norman Christmas parade every year of his life.
“It’s our tradition,” said mom, J.J. Bradford.
She said the cold wasn’t going to deter her family from attending this year.
“I think it’s that community feel — the tradition of it — and the marching bands,” she said when asked why it was worth braving near freezing temperatures.
Grace Fenton, age 4, likes the candy that gets tossed from the floats. She also said she’s excited about seeing Santa.
“We come every year,” said mom, Angie Fenton.
Grace’s maternal grandparents Joe and Kelley Kovach moved to Norman from Ohio after they retired from Atlas Van Lines. Joe Kovach is an artist, and the couple said they love the active Norman Arts Community — that, and the opportunity to attend parades with their only grandchild.
Besides, the couple said even this cold December day was nothing compared to the cold of Ohio.
“We never miss (the parade),” said Jane Menzie, who sat in a lawn chair with a blanket tucked around her. “Ever since it started, just about.”
Dorothy Simpson and Sandy Robertson came from Noble.
“My daughter is in the parade,” Robertson said.
That daughter, who rode the Sooner Theatre Dance Troupe float is the third generation to attend and/or participate in the parade.
“When I was little, we came to the parade,” Robertson said. “It’s a family kind of thing.”
Simpson said she was with Gundaker Realtors, now Dillard Group, who made floats and walked or roller skated in the parade every year.
The Sooner Dance Troupe’s theme this year was “Redneck Christmas.”
Hank Vann, age 3, attended with his parents Adam and Michelle.
Asked what he liked most about the parade, Hank said the cars and the marching bands.
Adam and Michelle Vann said they didn’t even consider staying home just because of cold temperatures.
That was the consensus up and down Main Street on Saturday.
The reasons cited most often for braving Saturday’s cold morning to see the Christmas parade were community, family and Christmas tradition — a reflection of the small town values that still exist in this growing university community. Bedford Falls has nothing on us.
For Norman residents, it’s a wonderful life.
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