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A float makes its way down Main Street in Mitchell during the 2011 Parade of Lights in this file photo. (Chris Huber/Republic)

Mitchell's Parade of Lights future under review

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Mitchell's Parade of Lights future under review
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

The future of the Mitchell Parade of Lights is in question.

The number of parade entries has declined in recent years for the annual holiday kickoff, and the number of volunteers has dwindled as well, according to parade committee members.

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The Parade of Lights has been held since 2003 on the Monday before Thanksgiving, which this year is Nov. 19. This would be the 10th year -- if it is held.

The number of entries dropped from a peak of 53 a few years ago to 33 in 2011, and that total included police, fire and other vehicles. More floats are needed, according to the committee.

Darla McGuire, director of Career Connections, has been on the parade committee for seven years, the last three as chairwoman.

"It's not that we don't want to put on a parade," McGuire said. "We want to put on a parade, and we want it to be a successful one."

She said she is reluctant to see the parade grind to a halt.

"I'm still on the fence on it, probably because I've been on the committee so long and I hate to see it go," McGuire said. "We have the crowd, but we need to get the businesses involved. How do we get businesses more involved to make it happen? Each year we just start getting fewer members."

A decision will be made soon.

The committee will conduct a survey of chamber members to determine the level of interest in the event and meet again at 10 a.m. Oct. 2 at the Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce office. The committee met Monday at the chamber.

McGuire said if the parade is canceled, other events will replace it to kick off the holiday season in Mitchell.

She said there's still time to save the parade if enough people come forward and offer to put floats and other entries in the parade, or volunteer in other ways.

"That's what we're looking at," McGuire said. "The main focus is that we have a lack of volunteers. We do have the number of people who come down to enjoy the event; we do not have the employer participation."

Mitchell Main Street & Beyond Executive Director Molly Goldsmith said the event's 10th year may have some meaning for the community.

"It's usually when things start to change," she said. "It could be big, we don't know."

Goldsmith and Corn Palace Director Mark Schilling, who are committee members, said what might work is replacing the parade with another event, and others agreed.

The committee discussed highlighting the Main Street tree-lighting ceremony and making it a central event. If it was held around 6:30 p.m. or 7 p.m., it could draw people downtown.

As always, Santa Claus could be at the Corn Palace on that date, the committee agreed.

The committee discussed a holiday open house, a stroll through businesses and other events, but no final decisions were made.

"This is preliminary ideas, research ... this is all it is," Goldsmith said.

Food is always a big attraction, they noted.

Chili has been served at various locations in the past after the parade, Schilling and other committee members said. It was served at the Corn Palace the last few years.

Holding a chili cook-off or holiday soup contest inside the Corn Palace was also discussed. Schilling said all ideas are still under review.

Canceling the parade and altering the annual event is a touchy subject, and committee members were nervous about allowing a reporter to sit in on their meeting Monday morning.

The parade is funded by $4,000 from city government, according to McGuire, which pays for prizes, Santa Claus and the chili that is served at the Corn Palace.

Schilling said publicity might save the parade.

"Maybe we find out everyone loves the parade and wants to step forward," he said.

To join the effort or for more information, call McGuire at 996-9891, Ext. 1.

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