Lebanon Christmas Carriage Parade Delivers Horse-Drawn Holiday Spirit

Dec 10, 2021 - 8:26 AM

Christmas magic fills the air on the first Saturday of December every year in the small city of Lebanon in southwestern Ohio. On that day, the city’s population swells from the norm of about 21,000 to well over 125,000, or even double that in some years, for the Lebanon Horse Drawn Carriage Parade and Christmas Festival.

The 2021 parade and festival, held Dec. 4, was the 32nd renewal of this horse-drawn holiday happening, after the coronavirus pandemic forced its cancellation last year. According to Madison Hartman at the Lebanon Chamber of Commerce, this year’s parade attracted a crowd of around 100,000 spectators and 71 parade entries hailing from several states rolling down the city’s streets at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Though down a bit from its normal 100-plus entries, probably due to the pandemic, the Lebanon carriage parade is still thought to be the largest all horse-drawn parade in the nation, Hartman said.

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Finch Creek Farms LLC’s handsome pair of black Percherons, Lyle (left) and Larry, evoked memories of Christmas past during the 2021 Lebanon Christmas Carriage Parade, held Dec. 4 in Lebanon, Ohio. The team from Xenia, Ohio, pulled a “people mover” wagon and were driven by Katie Finkes-Turner. Her father, Finch Creek Farms patriarch Reinhold Finkes, talked about his pair of Percherons, “We’ve been in the parade for 23 years with total of 16 horses, but these two are pretty special.” Photos By MacMillan Photography/Kim & Allen MacMillan

Pat South, who was the Lebanon Chamber of Commerce President when the idea for a parade was hatched in the late 1980s, explained the origins of the event.

“We wanted to establish some holiday events in beautiful downtown Lebanon to showcase the businesses in downtown and around town. And, to entertain local residents and hopefully draw from other local communities, too,” South said. “So, in 1988, we had kind of a trial run thinking that we liked the idea of horse-drawn carriages, and we had a small event with maybe eight horses and put together a committee, but that wasn’t the official first parade. The next year, 1989, we decided that we had hit on something with the carriages and we had our first parade. We wanted it to be all horse-drawn carriages; we didn’t want any other types of entries.”

From 15 or 20 carriages and about 15,000 spectators that first year, the event grew rapidly, to double the entries and a crowd of nearly 100,000 four years later.

“It was an instant success,” she said. “ We had all kinds of thank yous from the merchants and others involved and offers of help for the next year. Law enforcement and the city of Lebanon have been wonderful in their support.”

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Diana Dumford of Mini Acres Farm in Oxford, Ohio, dressed her two white Miniature Horses, Missy and Chief, to an extreme degree of festive cuteness.

The parade is known for featuring a wide variety of equines, and this year was no exception. This year’s parade entries ran the gamut from teams of draft horses to miniature ponies and donkeys, with Arabians, Hackneys, Morgans, Standardbred ex-race horses and others in the mix.

Heather and Scott Kaufman, Yellow Springs, Ohio, were second-time participants this year with their 7-year-old Friesian mare Tinka HFK.

“This parade was on my bucket list to do with my ‘bucket-list horse,’ ” Heather said of the mare she competes in driving, dressage and hunt seat, most recently at the International Friesian Horse Show Association’s World and Grand National Championships. “I got her when she was 4 and unbroke. We are learning together with help from friends. When we get this one in the book, it will be a total of six parades that we’ve done together.”

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Making her second appearance in the Lebanon Christmas Parade, Friesian mare Tinka HFK took all of the excitement in stride, ably guided by owner Heather Kaufman driving and her husband Scott Kaufman on foot.

Lebanon, nestled in picturesque rolling hills between Dayton and Cincinnati, was founded in 1802. The parade route goes through its historic downtown district and past the circa 1803 Golden Lamb Inn, which is Ohio’s oldest continually operating business. Over the years, the Golden Lamb has hosted no fewer than 12 U.S. presidents along with other celebrities and dignitaries.

In addition to the parade, the city’s accompanying Christmas Festival this year offered entertainment, visits with Santa, a live nativity scene, a food and craft fair, shopping, and other family-friendly holiday activities. The line was out the door for candy cane- or sugar cookie-flavored frozen custard at Whit’s, a local favorite. Festival volunteers dressed in holiday garb helped with crowd control, answered questions and collected donations toward next year’s event.

For more information on the annual Lebanon Horse Drawn Carriage Parade and Christmas Festival visit https://www.lebanonchamber.org/carriage-parade/ .

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The Olde Tyme Clydesdale six-horse hitch was driven by owner/trainer Deborah Bechstein (center) with assistance from John Nissen (right) and Bill Herrig (left). The Olde Tyme Hitch has been participating in the Lebanon Parade for 28 years. This year’s team consisted of five mares and one gelding, ages 4 to 13, including two Olde Tyme homebreds.
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Penny Wallace’s adorable Miniature Horse Butterfinger peers between the candy-canes adorning his cart before the 2021 Lebanon Christmas Carriage Parade. Wallace owns Tally-Ho Acres in Tipp City, Ohio.
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Mules Tom and John pulled one of two entries from Gorman Heritage Farm, of Evendale, Ohio. The custom-made, wheelchair-accessible wagon was built by Ohio-based Thomas Welding and driven by Gorman Heritage Farm Harness Club member Jenny Simonton.
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Santa and Mrs. Claus appeared in a Brewster carriage driven by Dan Doran of Apple Hill Farm in Ross Township, Ohio, and his team of Arabian geldings. Before and after the parade Santa and his Mrs. posed for photos with children visiting the Lebanon Christmas Festival.
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Lebanon local Mindy Siefker drove her striking 6-year-old, 30-inch-tall stallion Stetson, accompanied by her son Matthew and family dog Winston, a 4-year-old longhaired Chihuahua who ended up hitching a ride in Matthew’s arms.
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Bella, sporting an ice-cream-cone horn and red bow, looked like she jumped off the pages of a fairytale as she waited to start the parade. Owned and trained by Dawn Randall from Independence, Kentucky, the 18-year-old pony represented Miranda’s Old Time Ice Cream Shop in the parade.
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The infamous Grinch Who Stole Christmas is checking his to-do list while riding on the back of a cart pulled by driver Kristina Valentine’s miniature donkey Festus.
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Bedecked in blue as they passed the historic Golden Lamb Inn in Lebanon, this lovely pair of Haflingers, Patty and Casey, was driven by Garth Louth. The horses are owned by the Alvie Louth family of Patriot Farms, Rockford, Ohio, and they custom built the red, white and blue wagon. Garth has competed the family’s Haflingers for many years driving singles, pairs, teams and six-horse hitches. The family has a long heritage of military service dating back to the Civil War, and with their entry they paid tribute to U.S. troops serving around the world. They asked the crowd to remember veterans and their families during the holidays and throughout the year.
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The (impeccably braided, beautifully dappled) End

 

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