It's a tradition that continues to resonate throughout the community that Santa Claus himself can't miss.
In fact this year, St. Nick is beginning a new tradition; he is sticking around as long as he can to enjoy children and families who attended and celebrated his and other proud members arrival and parade through Lake Ozark at the historic White House.
Santa, Mrs. Claus and the elves ride in style each year at the 27th Annual Lake Area Christmas Parade, which is one of the largest and oldest holiday parades in Lake of the Ozarks and continues its years of Christmas tradition for residents and visitors at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10 along Bagnell Dam Boulevard in Lake Ozark.
Led by the representatives of the Lake of the Ozarks Marine Corps League Detachment #1137, the parade will begin at the Tomahawk Motel and march down Bagnell Dam Boulevard, ending at Bagnell Dam.
Parade organizers and the Lake Area Christmas Parade committee select one to two individuals from the community to act as the Grand Marshall and official leader of the parade. This year, those individuals are the two lead organizers of the parade for the last seven years.
"It is a great honor for me and (Pat Thurston) to be the grand marshals," said Retha Wilson, who has co-chaired and organized the Lake Area Christmas Parade through this year's event. "We have put on this parade for some time, and it has been a lot of fun."
Next year, the dynamic duo will "pass the baton" to the Bagnell Dam Strip Association, who will organize the event. However, Wilson and Thurston, along with many volunteers, have helped raise funds for numerous local charities with excess funds from the parade and in special benefits during certain parade events.
"We have tried to make the parade a fundraiser for certain organizations over the years. For the 75th Anniversary of Bagnell Dam, we raised $8,000 for Kids' Harbor and we have always given extra funds from the parade to a local charity," Wilson said.
Following the two grand marshals in the parade caravan, anywhere from 50-70 floats and parade participants will march down to Bagnell Dam including School of the Osage High School Marching Band, Lake of the Ozarks Shriners organization, Knights of Columbus float, Camden County Saddle Club, Lake of the Ozarks Corvette Club and numerous car groups, motorcycle clubs, dance groups, cub/boy scout troops, fire department trucks, business floats and other participants.
"The Lake Ozark Police Department and Chief Mark Maples are absolutely fabulous in closing down the road and helping parade routes moving and safe, along with spectators," said Thurston in past The Lake Today article. "We could not do this parade without Chief Maples and his officers."
Santa and Mrs. Claus and their adorable elves, will also be arriving in style in Santa's beautiful Red Sleigh, attached to six Seadoo's, riding on a platform. They are pulled by Casper the semi-truck, which is lit with more than 2,000 lights. Along with the lights are more than 100 feet of garland. Numerous Christmas songs will fill the air with sounds of the season, and Santa's helpers on board will toss out treats.
Santa's ride is provided by Glencove Marine, the Lake Area's exclusive Formula & SeaDoo dealer at the Lake and was built by a collaborative effort of Steve Lemens and other staff of Glencove Marine, Glen and Sonya Colliver of Sonya's Photography, and Randy and Kerry Mueller from Osage Auto Body.
Wilson noted that after the parade is over, Steve Lemens, who drives Casper and Santa down the Strip, will take the sleigh off the trailer and sit it on the ground in front of The White House. Children and families can also bring their cameras so they can take pictures with Santa.
Also, thanks to many local donations by the community including Budy's Transportation, Home Depot, Andy's Frozen Custard, RE/MAX Lake of the Ozarks Community Foundation and numerous others, the first 250 children at The White House to greet Santa and his helpers will receive a free stocking filled with all kinds of goodies. Wilson said children could receive some nice presents such as a stuffed animal, wooden craft kits and coloring books.
"Last year, we had around 150 stockings and every child received one. We hope to have a couple hundred this year and hope to see more children come enjoy this post-parade event," she added.
The entire Lake Area Christmas Parade atmosphere is one that has encouraged the parade committee members to continue to organize the popular holiday event year after year.
"Everyone enjoys parades and since Lake Ozark really only has three including the Osage Homecoming Parade, we typically see a big turn out for the Christmas Parade," Wilson said. "Of course, candy is one of the biggest draws, but it is a great way for everyone to get into the spirit of Christmas."
To make a donation to the children's stockings or enter the parade, contact Retha Wilson 573-280-0576 or Pat Thurston 573-280-1533 or visit www.lakechristmasparade.com.