By John L. Braese
ONTARIO – The candy canes will be flying and the marching bands playing Christmas tunes as Ontario’s Winter Wonderland Parade takes to the streets on Saturday.
This year’s parade theme is Jack Frost with a first-ever presenting sponsor, the Malheur Enterprise.
The parade follows the same route as in years past and begins at 1 p.m. The parade will line up on Alameda Drive before taking to Southwest Fourth Avenue and making the long trip before the crowd assembled. The parade will then make the turn on Oregon Street and end at the Ontario train depot. Currently, more than 50 entries are scheduled to participate including car groups, floats from different organizations, horse groups and marching bands.
Those streets will be closed for approximately one hour due to the parade and drivers are urged to use alternate routes to get around.
Parade organizers aren’t sure how long the parade has existed.
“I know it is over 50 years the parade has been here,” said John Breidenbach, president of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.
“It was started to bring people into town for holiday shopping,” he said. “Basically, we have the parade today for the same reason. It lets people know what is available here in Ontario for their holiday shopping and supports our local merchants.”
This year’s parade also honors a longtime volunteer and organizer.
Ontario’s John Kirby has been named grand marshal. For many years, Kirby organized the parade before passing the duties on to his town sons three years ago.
“I had my ankle fused and just could not get around the route like I used to,” said Kirby.
“The past presidents voted on grand marshal and chose John,” said Breidenbach. “He was an obvious choice considering his past involvement with the parade. He organized the event for years and much of what the parade is today is due to what John did in the past.”
Kirby was born and raised in Ontario and became owner of Kinney Bros and Keele True Value Hardware in 1970. The business celebrates 54 years in business next year.
“I have a lot of fond memories of the parade and a few close calls,” Kirby said. “I have almost been run over twice and lived to talk about it. The parade involves setting up barriers and sometimes people have places to go. I have ended up being splayed out over the hood of a three-quarter ton Dodge.”
Kirby said his stint at marshal follows many of his friends.
“I have known personally all the marshals and it is an honor to follow in their footsteps,” he said.
Kirby will take his seat at the start of the parade, but those younger in the crowd likely will be waiting for the finale of the parade: Santa.