Parade settling into Keizer

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Plenty of brightly lit entries filed down River Road in Keizer last year for the Festival of Lights Holiday Parade. (File)

Plenty of brightly lit entries filed down River Road in Keizer last year for the Festival of Lights Holiday Parade. (File)

Of the Keizertimes

For a third time, the Festival of Lights Holiday Parade takes to Keizer’s River Road next Saturday night, Dec. 14.

The parade, referred to as the largest lit parade west of the Mississippi River, started in Salem in 1990 before being moved to Keizer in 2011. When the move was announced in May 2011, parade founder Warren Franklin said the idea was for the parade to stay in Keizer for years.

“We didn’t come here just to be here one year and then gone,” Franklin said at the time.

Cheryl Mitchell, the parade organizer, said the parade has settled comfortably into Keizer, drawing crowds estimated at 50,000 people as it goes through the heart of the city.

“It feels like home and the right place to be to grow this great family, local and regional community event,” Mitchell said this week. “We are looking to the future and the expansion of new areas for our community to enjoy in the years to come.”

The parade starts at 7 p.m. on Dec. 14 and goes southbound on River Road, starting at Lockhaven Drive NE. The parade has been extended in length this year and now ends at the intersection of River Road and Plymouth Drive NE.

The Roth family has been chosen as grand marshals. Family patriarch Orville Roth, a longtime community supporter in both Salem and Keizer, passed away in October. The Roth’s Fresh Market at Chemawa and River Road in Keizer closed in June 2012.

When the parade was moved to Keizer, Mitchell noted there had been a desire for years to find a different route. The 2010 parade was canceled. Mitchell feels the change was indeed the right one.

“This has been a lot of hard volunteer work hours and, at the same time, fun,” she said. “This journey has been awesome for the parade to be in Keizer. We were looking for a place to grow and expand. The straight parade route and the large staging area has fit us well.”

Christine Dieker, executive director of the Keizer Chamber of Commerce, feels Keizer residents have quickly opened their arms to the parade.

“Keizer has embraced it, 100 percent,” Dieker said. “It is definitely happening. Merchants are positive on the fact it brings a lot of people to town, with a lot of activity.” Mitchell noted she has gotten similar feedback.

“Our team has gone around and talked with a lot of merchants and community members and they enjoy the parade very much,” Mitchell said. “A lot of the merchants told us they have sold out of drinks and food during the event.”

While the parade is the main attraction on Dec. 14, there are other related events.

The Jingle Buck and Holly Doe Bowl is being held at Town and Country Lanes (3500 River Road N) from 4 to 5:45 p.m. The bowling starts before the parade and resumes after the parade concludes. KBZY will be doing a live radio broadcast in the afternoon and also after the parade, until 1 a.m.

From 6 to 7 p.m. is the Jingle Buck and Holly Doe Family Fun Run. This event starts at Weeks Road, goes to Chemawa Road and ends up back at Weeks Road. Radio Disney personnel will be providing tunes and encouraging people to dress as their favorite Disney character.

Runners can start checking in at 3 p.m. at Town and Country Lane to pick up event packets and t-shirts.

The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile will be at Town and Country from 3 to 4:40 p.m. before moving to the hospitality area for sponsors by Keizer Civic Center.

The Wienermobile and Radio Disney’s Agent P vehicle are among the entries in the parade.

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