Welcome Santa Parade marks 22nd year
Last event for city of Akron’s Davidson
Since 1987, the parade has filled South Main Street with holiday cheer, and Davidson has been there to see them all. This year, the event will be one of the last she has worked on as Akron’s community events coordinator, as she is retiring Jan. 31.
Davidson stepped into her job when the parade was just getting started after working as an accountant for the city’s planning department for 20 years.
“I was getting bored with accounting,” said Davidson, who in her spare time arranged ski trips and loved working with people. “Everything was getting computerized.”
Before taking a planned trip to Europe, she mentioned to her boss she was starting to tire of the job. When she returned, she was asked if she would like to work as a loaned executive with the United Way. Davidson did for several months and enjoyed the experience.
|Santa waves to spectators during the Welcome Santa Parade last year.|
|Five 48-foot-tall balloons will appear in the Welcome Santa Parade Nov. 29. Shown is a dragon during last year’s parade.
|Photos: Ken Crisafi|
“They gave me a little desk and a little box of files and turned me loose,” Davidson said.
One of her first projects was working on the holiday parade. The city had hosted Soap Box Derby parades and other holiday parades, but it was decided that something needed to be done to usher in the holiday season.
“It was a very small little parade,” she said. “We wanted to capitalize on it really developing. We just started sending notices to everybody and got a lot of the organizations involved. Groups would start early and make their own floats.”
She decided the parade should be held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving for several reasons.
“You have a long holiday weekend,” she said. “You’ve got people that are off for four days, they’ve had their turkey and done their shopping and now they say, ‘Are we going to go to a movie?’”
She said the event also brings people downtown on a weekend that was traditionally the time when merchants unveiled their decorated windows.
“People wanted to go back to the warm, fuzzy feeling they got from that,” she said. “People want that for the holidays because it’s become so commercial.”
This year’s parade will feature for the second year giant character balloons similar to those featured in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Five 48-foot-tall balloons — a snowman, a dragon, a train, a kangaroo and a clown — will appear this year. About 150 volunteers will steer the inflatables down South Main Street during the event.
About 80 units will take part in the parade. This year’s grand marshal will be Lord Mayor Barbara Ludwig of Akron’s sister city of Chemnitz, Germany. The Lichtenstein Tower Band will accompany her.
Davidson, who also has overseen the Akron Arts Expo and Akron’s summer concerts, said she is ready to retire, but there are a lot of things about her job she will miss.
“I have met the most wonderful people,” she said. “I love being out in the public and I love dealing with the public.”
And she notes she won’t be completely hanging up her events-coordinating hat, as she’ll be a consultant for Springfield Township, where she lives.
“It’s been a long, fun haul,” she said. “One door closes and another door opens.”
Davidson said West Akron resident Brittany Schmoekel will take her place as community events coordinator in 2009.
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