450 people power Abby Christmas Parade
Nestled in a small corner of central Wisconsin is the small city of Abbotsford, and its 2,300 residents. For nearly 50 years, people have been flocking to this place to see a spectacle unlike any other in the state.
Since 1971, the city has hosted the annual Abbotsford Christmas Parade, and this year promises to bring more joy and wonder to the many spectators who will line the streets to see old and new floats and characters walk the streets of Abbotsford.
This year marks the 49th edition of the parade, which always takes place the first Saturday of December. The 2019 parade falls on Dec. 7.
Those interested in seeing lighted floats and costumed volunteers dressed up as your favorite Disney, Star Wars, Pixar and other beloved cartoon and film characters can begin lining the streets of Abbotsford at 7 p.m., with the parade to begin rolling out floats at 7:30 p.m.
There will be a new event taking place this year. Central Fire and EMS will be hosting a free movie for children at the Abbotsford fire station, with Santa present and hot chocolate and hot dogs being served. This will run prior to the start of the parade, from 4-6 p.m.
Neither ice, snow nor rain will stop the parade. No matter what the weather may be, the parade will go on.
It’s a massive undertaking, requiring volunteers needed to dress up in costumes ranging from Harry Potter and Hagrid to Elsa and Daffy Duck.
Other volunteers are needed to push floats that vary in size, from the tiny to the massive. For students in Colby, Abbotsford and the surrounding area who are active in sports, it’s a free workout.
The parade is unique, not just for the way community members throw themselves into it, with current and former residents volunteering — this year from as far away as Minnesota and Las Vegas — but also because, unlike other parades, no commercial advertising is allowed.
In total, more than 450 volunteers are needed to push floats, wear costumes, act as crowd control and work behind the scenes.
The work backstage is what makes the magic happen come show time. It’s an event that’s only made possible by volunteers, students from nearby schools and help from local businesses.
The local businesses support the parade by donating raffl e prizes, sponsoring advertising and selling raffle tickets.
This year’s grand prize is a Kalahari Resort vacation and cash totaling $1,350 in value, donated by the Abby/ Colby Crossings Chamber of Commerce and Axium Community Center.
Other prizes include a Daniel Boone Prime Grill, donated by Maurina-Schilling Funeral Home and Smith Bros. Meats; a chest freezer and $500 of meat, donated by Nicolet National Bank; a Yeti Cooler and package, donated by AbbyBank; a 2-in-1 Mini Touch Screen laptop, donated by TP Printing and Computer TR; a $500 Visa gift card, donated by Forward Financial Bank; an Electric Ride-On Jeep, donated by Colby Chrysler; a Ford Electric Ride-On Jeep, donated by Abby Ford; a corn hole game, donated by Cherokee Garage; a pet wellness package, donated by Medford Vet Clinic; a $200 Visa gift card, donated by Royal Credit Union; $200 gas cards, donated by Central WI Plumbing and Christensen Farms Trucking; $100 in Abby/Colby Chamber Dollars, donated by Kramer Schiferl Reality; a $100 pizza party, donated by Pizza Hut; and two large stuffed animals, donated by First City Dental.
The money from these funds goes into the maintenance and making of new floats and costumes, and to pay for labor expenses. All labor is donated.
New and updated floats
The 49th edition of the Abbotsford Christmas Parade will feature all the costumes and floats that spectators have become accustomed to over the years, but this year will feature several floats that are getting an upgrade, along with a new float.
This year’s Christmas Parade will unveil a new Mrs. Claus float that longtime fans will want to see.
Other floats will be receiving upgrades and renovations, including the pirate ship and the manger.
For the second year in a row, members of Randall Pempek’s shop class in Abbotsford have been part of the volunteers, working hard since September to make changes to the manger.
The parade committee donates the supplies, but the labor and technical know-how all come from Pempek’s class, with students using their skills with power tools, electrical and carpentry to add a new bit of wonder to the parade.
“We definitely do like this project,” Pempek said. “It kinda reinforces what we’re doing here and it shows them a real life situation where they can use the skills being taught in the class.”
For Conrad Flink, a sophomore at Abbotsford High, working on this float has been another way he’s helped the Christmas Parade.
“I’ve been a part of the parade ever since I was three years old,” Flink said. “I’m glad I’m able to do it in school, and I really enjoy this and bringing joy to tons of people.”
For Flink, whose parents Kevin Flink and Kris O’Leary operate the parade, using his hands for a project like this has been a welcome change to wearing a costume.
“It feels amazing to contribute to the parade and be a part of a community that appreciates and loves what I do,” says Flink.
The manger, along with Mrs. Claus’s sleigh, are just two of many floats that will be featured at the annual parade. Over the course of the past 49 years, the parade has grown in size and stature to include almost 50 floats and 250 costumed characters.
The floats are mostly self-propelled, and light up the night sky with their hundreds of colorful lights.
Fan favorites include an X-wing and R2D2 from Star Wars, Pearl from “Finding Dory” and the main attraction, an animatronic Puff the Magic Dragon that breathes real smoke.
Local area residents are encouraged to come and cheer on the sights and sounds. For those coming from a longer distance, and looking for a place to stay, there are three hotels with rooms available — Home Motel, Abby Inn and Rodeway Inn.
Christ Lutheran Church in Abbotsford will be having a cookie walk on Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. The Candy Cane Lane Craft Fair will be held at the East Town Mall, with a Lions Club soup and pictures with Santa from 10-3 p.m.
For more information on the parade, contact parade chairman Kris O’Leary at 715-223-2342 (krisoleary@centralwinews. com) or the Abby/Colby Crossings Chamber of Commerce at www.abbycolbychmaber.org.
Bring the whole family, dress warm and enjoy the magic of this year’s Abbotsford Christmas Parade.