When COVID-19 hit in March of 2020, I sent an email to JoAnn Anderson in the STL Parks Department following up from the 2019 event. I signed off on that email saying I looked forward to working with her in the fall of 2020, “when things are more back to normal.” How naïve of me.
The decision to cancel the tree lighting and avoid a superspreader event was difficult but obvious. A more obvious decision, though, was to do something for the neighborhood. Something to bring joy, wonder, happiness, and even a scintilla of normality. A number of ideas were floated among STL Hills Neighborhood Association and Friends of Francis Park leadership, and ultimately it was decided to bring Santa to the people with a parade.
I wasn’t sure what the response would be and how many would turn out to greet the parade, but I was overwhelmed. It was wonderful to see so many neighbors out with their loved ones to ring in the holiday season. The look of happiness and excitement on the faces of children and their families as we rode around St. Louis Hills is a memory I will carry with me for many years. Additionally, something else I saw a handful of times that was not expected but was not surprising was the number of people crying. It has been a tremendously difficult year on all of us, and I would like to think that this little parade we put together offered catharsis for so many of you. I felt those tears, and I am glad this event brought you that feeling of relief and overwhelming joy.
This event could not have been possible without the help of many in our fine neighborhood. Nancy Vordtriede, President of the St. Louis Hills Neighborhood Association, as well as Tom Byrne and Joni Ott of Friends of Francis Park, who offered their advice and leadership. John Burghoff, who helped put together Santa’s Sleigh and designed the parade route. Ted Gierse and Kerri Bonasch who were responsible for bringing Santa and Mrs. Claus from the North Pole, and the St. Louis Metro Police who provided an escort around the neighborhood. JoAnn Anderson and Greg Hayes at the St. Louis City Parks Department, as well as Alderman Tom Oldenberg and State Representative Donna Baringer. Of course, the tree in the park was still lit this year, and for that we thank Dwight Davis of Davis Holiday Lighting who took this job in this incredibly strange year.
And finally, I want to thank all of you, my neighbors and friends, for making this such a wonderful place to live. The love, support, and pride in this community is palpable, which makes planning events such as this so much easier, because it is being done in service of people we care deeply about.
Thank you for making the Inaugural STL Hills Santa Parade a massive success, and I wish you a wonderful holiday season!