Imagine an event that would bring out nearly half the population of Oklahoma City.
Eighty one years ago, Oklahoma City enjoyed a Christmas parade that was attended by between 65,000 and 100,000 people.
The 1930 federal U.S. Census estimated the city’s population at 185,389.
This description, from the Oklahoma City Times, Dec. 5, 1930, sets the scene:
“Santa Claus was in town, and so was everybody else Friday afternoon to watch the gorgeous spectacle move south on Broadway. Cheers and shouts went up from the throngs on the sidewalks, and many a tiny child in the custody of his mother, waved a happy ‘Hello Santa’ as the parade passed.”
And from The Oklahoman, Dec. 6, 1930, it was reported: “Lindbergh day, Al Smith day, (Gov.) Walton inaugural day, all were eclipsed by the throng, which gathered to attest that Old Santa is Oklahoma City’s greatest hero.”
“What he had to offer in the way of a spectacle was by no mean’s disappointing.”
School was let out so the children could attend, and work came to nearly a standstill as state employees came from the Capitol, office workers watched from windows and even the federal court recessed so the jury could watch.
At a mile and a half long and starting at 10th and Broadway and winding through the downtown shopping district, the parade took more than an hour to pass.
WKY Radio was stationed atop The Oklahoman building at Fourth and Broadway describing the passing displays.
The parade numbered nearly 60 units, including floats, seven bands, three calliopes, city officials and, of course, Santa Claus.
Santa had come to town and brought with him his sleigh and 10 live reindeer.
As we all know, Santa usually travels with eight tiny reindeer, except when Rudolph joins the team.
In 1930, it was still nine years away before he would need Rudolph and his shiny nose, so Santa must have brought the two extra reindeer to help pull the sleigh along the streets.
Times have changed, but Oklahoma Citians now flock to the Holiday River Parade and enjoy the events of Downtown in December.
The Christmas lights are on at Automobile Alley, a part of Broadway that hosted the parade in 1930.
While downtown is nearly impassable with all the street closings because of reconstruction and repair, the Bricktown area offers the city Christmas tree, lights along the canal and snow tubing at the RedHawks Field at Bricktown. And, the newly renovated Myriad Gardens is decked out in style with lots of lights, ice skating and Santa, too.
So, visit downtown if you can. If not, close your eyes and picture the sight of Santa and his reindeer making their way downtown with excited children and delighted adults crowded along the streets.