Living in an area known for its love of horses, one might expect an equine-themed parade during the holidays.
Families will line the streets of downtown Parker for the annual Christmas Carriage Parade at noon Dec. 8. The town will shut down Mainstreet and the Victorian Drive loop to make way for horse-drawn carriages, wagons, surreys and stagecoaches. The free parade is supplemented with other holiday attractions, including two holiday markets, ice sculpting, a petting zoo and pony rides. Even Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus will pay a visit.
The parade has become a yearly tradition for dozens of local equestrian groups, which spend the weeks leading up the event planning out décor and outfits and other last-minute details.
Lisa Bialy, the co-founder and social secretary for the Elizabeth-based Mile High Gaited Horse Club, says 10 members from Douglas and Elbert counties are participating and will ride horses that are festively covered in glitter and spray paint. This year, the horses will also be decked out for the parade’s “Jingle Bell” theme, and the crowd will surely be able to hear them coming down the street.
The stars of the show - gaited breeds like the Peruvian, Tennessee Walker and Paso Fino - have all grown accustomed to the distracting sights and loud sounds. A once-a-year “de-spook” clinic helps them get used to other entries, like high school marching bands, not to mention the small children who stand wide-eyed, just feet away, as the gentle animals pass by.
“When they trust you, they will do anything you ask them to,” Bialy said of the equines.
This will be the seventh year that the equestrian group has joined in Parker’s Christmas Carriage Parade, one of many Front Range parades in which it participates. Bialy said it is among the favorites.
“I love how the (town) decorates,” she said. “It’s very Christmas-y. A lot of towns don’t do that.”
The Parker parade also holds a special place in the hearts of members of the Mile High Gaited Horse Club. It was a beloved venue for Bialy’s son, Micah, who passed away last month at the age of 14 after a two-year battle with brain cancer. Last year, he participated in the parade in a wheelchair. In his honor, Micah’s father will be riding a Peruvian mare that bonded with the boy during his brave fight.
“He will be there in spirit,” said Bialy, who pointed out that Micah was treated at The Children’s Hospital at Parker Adventist, which coincidentally is one of the event’s main sponsors.