December 01, 2017
By Sony Hocklander, 2017 Christmas Parade Grand Marshal
Christmas storytelling has been a tradition in my family since long before we moved to the Ozarks. That tradition has flourished in Springfield.
When my grown sons were young, we’d gather nightly around the lighted tree where I’d weave a continuing holiday story, making it up as I went along. Complete with cliff-hangers, these stories were filled with talking mice or penguins, magic trees, curious little boys and, always, Santa. Tree Time, as we called it, also included funny stories my husband and I recalled from childhoods. And we reminisced about memorable family moments—like the time our youngest left his allowance out with Santa’s cookies as a “tip for the elves.” That story still comes up every year.
Storytelling not only makes memories, it helps us keep them close.
For many local families, special holiday memories include watching or riding in the annual Downtown Christmas Parade. That’s why this year’s theme, “A Downtown Christmas Story,” is so fitting.
Downtown certainly factors into my own narrative.
My family moved to Springfield in 1999. When the holidays rolled around, we set off with our sons to explore new versions of longtime traditions. I loved working downtown during the holidays and was lucky to tell stories about our community for many years through our city newspaper. Today I’m doing that through video. There are so many acts of kindness, ways to help and personal memories to share, the stories are endless.
One tradition my family still keeps is drive-by light-peeping. Downtown Springfield is part of that. The lighted Historic City Hall, the Christmas tree in Park Central Square, holiday-decked store windows and lights at Jordan Valley Park are always on our route.
I’ve enjoyed seeing city light displays and holiday experiences expand through the hard work and dedication of people behind the scenes. We often take visiting Kansas friends to First Friday Art Walk in December, strolling the festive square with coffee or hot chocolate in hand. We’ll go by the History Museum to see its holiday display. Later we pop into shops and galleries, perhaps stopping at Hotel Vandivort for a warmup treat.
Before starting my business, I tested a camera by shooting footage of the Christmas Parade—perhaps the most festive of downtown holiday events. I can’t wait to see this year’s floats by various organizations—some with community input. The Springfield-Greene County Library District asked readers to submit favorite children’s book titles for their float. Alas, my vote (“Ferdinand”) didn’t make the cut, but I’m a fan of all the books that did.
Never would I have guessed that one day I’d ride in the parade as Grand Marshal. I am honored to represent in a small way so many talented folks in our community who share stories through newspapers, magazines, television, video, photos, books, plays, blogs and more.
Not only that, this year’s Grand Marshal car will represent our community’s giving nature. Rusty Worley and the kind folks at Downtown Springfield Association allowed me to use a guest spot in the car to generate funds for Harmony House, Greene County’s only emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence. Donors to my campaign were offered a random chance to ride with me. It’s fitting, I think, that an event enjoyed by kids of all ages will help dozens of children who call Harmony House their temporary home.
It’s one more story about the way our community is wonderfully connected.
Springfield’s holiday celebrations—from lighting the Mayor’s Christmas Tree to the December First Friday Art Walk, holiday theater performances and the annual Christmas Parade—are big city efforts with small city charm. I love that about the community we call home.