A Christmas Parade with visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus, elves, snowmen and more, downtown businesses with live holiday scenes in the windows and the play “A Laura Ingalls Wilder Christmas” make Hannibal the place to be this weekend.
“We certainly would like to invite visitors to Hannibal and have them experience Hannibal in a whole new light this season,” said Gail Bryant, director of the Hannibal Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The annual parade, sponsored by the Hannibal Jaycees, has the theme “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.” With the historic downtown decorated for the holidays, the parade will be part of a winter wonderland of lights and displays.
“Last year we had a sleigh, reindeer, snowmen – people get really creative,” said Jennifer Foster, chairman of the parade and chairman of the board for the Hannibal Jaycees.
Santa, who will walk the parade route with his elves, will stop and say hello and even pose for pictures.
“It brightens a child’s eye to see Santa come over,” Foster said.
In a role reversal appropriate for the season of giving, Santa hopes to receive gifts from good little boys and girls along the parade route. Paradegoers can bring cash donations or unwrapped toys – anything from bikes to Barbies to board games – to give to Santa and the elves. The donations will benefit the Douglas Community Services and help make the holidays happier for people in the adopt-a-family program.
People give toys to Santa,” Foster said. “Just yell for Santa and he’ll be there.”
The entry fee for parade floats is also an unwrapped toy. The parade typically has 30 to 90 floats, depending on the weather. A perennial favorite is the classic Chevy decorated with Christmas lights that plays holiday music while Mrs. Claus walks alongside handing out candy canes. Many businesses will also pull out all the stops to decorate company cars or trucks, and the Grinch has been known to put in an appearance. Churches are involved too, usually with floats depicting the Nativity.
“It’ll be a busy weekend,” Foster said. “We always have a good crowd.”
The parade starts at 6 p.m. at 10th and Broadway, turns left on Main Street to pass through the Living Windows display area and ends at North and Main. It usually takes an hour.
“A Laura Ingalls Wilder Christmas”
The parade will end just in time to allow people to attend “A Laura Ingalls Wilder Christmas,” which will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 1201 Lyon Street. The play, with a cast of seven people directed by Peggy Northcraft, covers a two-year time period before the “Little House on the Prairie” years in Walnut Grove. It is set in 1876, and starts with the death of baby Freddy.
“This is kind of a darker period in their lives, but overall this is a very motivational and uplifting play,” said Sean Major, president of the Hannibal Community Theatre that is offering the production. “It’s an uplifting play in that it focuses on family, and that’s what got them through this time period. They were kind of re-grouping as a family, just the five of them.”
The five are Ma and Pa Ingalls, played by Joe Johnson and Dawn Koening, and sisters Mary, Laura and Carrie. This is really a family production, as Mary is portrayed by Addison Bray, 17, while youngest sister Carrie is played by Addison’s sister Andelin Bray, 12. Laura is portrayed by Joe Johnson’s daughter, Skyleah Jo Johnson, 13.
They are joined by Tina Boltinghouse as Mrs. Starr, the wealthiest woman in town, and Jared Johnson, Skyleah’s brother, playing mean kid Johnny
This was a difficult time for the family. Money was tight, and Laura was worried that her parents might accept Mrs. Starr’s offer to adopt her. It’s a story of healing and the importance of enduring family bonds. It features several songs, including a traditional hymn and the Christmas carols “Deck the Halls” and “Silent Night.”
This production is unique, Major said, in that there are very few props.
With the exception of a couple of chairs and a shelf, “The only props on the stage are, literally, a wooden box, a few china figurines, and a sled,” he said. “Everything else that takes place is filled in with sound effects and pantomiming by the actors and actresses. As far as the stage set, it’s very, very bare. It’s just a blank stage with a wooden box.
With the benefit of acting and imagination, the box becomes a bed, the fireplace, a stagecoach, or whatever else they need. The play is told from Laura’s point-of-view, and it includes things happening off-stage that the audience only hears.
“It’s a very basic and imagination-filled production,” Major said. “The more imaginative you are, the better the play is going to be.”
Tickets are $10 adults, $5 ages 17 and under, and are available at the door or by calling 573-795-7388 for reservations. For more information, call 573-246-0127.
Take Highway 61 north to Market Street, the second light. Stay on Market and drive about three miles. The church will be on the right, just past Levering Nursing Home.