Oasis of Love Church will make you believe at Dickens’ Days parade Friday in Shippensburg
By AMBER SOUTH
SHIPPENSBURG — Do you believe?
Oasis of Love Church hopes to make you, as its float makes its way down King Street in the 21st annual Dickens’ Days parade on Friday.
Amid the 20-to-30-some other parade entries, a giant child’s mitten high atop the church’s float will raise a bell into the air.
Representing the moment in the book and holiday movie, “The Polar Express,” when the main character receives a jingle bell from Santa Claus, organizers hope the message sticks with onlookers.
“You have to believe to be able to hear the bell,” said Nancy Shale, a member of the church’s parade committee.
The base of the float is designed to look like a section of the train that is the Polar Express, Shale added.
According to float committee leader Tom Wiser, between 35 and 40 people have been working on sections of the float for about three weeks. The project will remain in sections at least until Thursday when workers will put it together in preparation for its journey down Shippensburg’s main strip.
The “I believe” theme is Oasis of Love Church’s take on the overall theme of this year’s parade: “When Christmas Comes to Town,” which is the name of a song in “The Polar Express” movie.
In order to be considered for awards, parade participants must abide by the theme, according to instructions from Dickens’ Days organizer Shippensburg Downtown Organizations Investing Together.
“We have found that these themes seem to work, whether its the window decorating (contest for downtown organizations) or floats, it’s really neat to see everybody’s perception of that theme,” said Dickens’ Days committee member Lizzie Bailey.
The 7 p.m. parade will act as the official kickoff to Dickens’ Days and Shippensburg’s holiday season. It will end at the former Vigilant Hose Company building at 129 E. King St., where the Christmas tree will be lit.
Now in its 21st year, Dickens’ Days has come a long way from its downtown Shippensburg business beginnings in the early 1990s.
According to event committee member Trudy Collier, the annual holiday celebration started as an initiative by three merchants on King Street and was aptly titled “We Three Shops on King.”
“Once D.O.I.T. got organized and started up, it evolved into being called Dickens’ Days,” Collier said.
It is unclear what the change entailed, but it is clear that whatever it was paved the way for a holiday staple in Shippensburg. With annual events like Mrs. Cratchit’s Story Book Tea, Brunch with Santa, carriage rides, gingerbread house making, craft shows and other opportunities for the community to come together, Dickens’ Days provides residents with another holiday tradition for their schedules.
“The main thing is to have Santa arrive in Shippensburg with the Christmas parade; that’s kind of the main focus and that’s always what the main focus has been,” Collier said.
One theory on the evolution of Dickens’ Days has to do with Charles Dickens. Bailey sees the event as one that takes participants back to the 1800s.
“Shippensburg is filled with histories,” she said. “It’s a nice time frame to focus on. I think one of the things that’s nice, the town comes together for the event and it really does seem like the people in the community embrace the themes for the Dickens’ Days event.”
Dickens’ Days has experienced varying levels of success over the years, Collier said. Factors that may be to blame include the down economy and possibly even the historical aspect.
“I’m not sure if people look at Christmas nostalgically (anymore) or if they look at Christmas in the new technology way of things,” Collier said.
With the parade in particular, success seems to depend partly on the theme. Three years ago saw one of the most popular, with the “12 Days of Christmas,” because of the many individual aspects, Collier said. This year is looking good so far, she added.
To keep Dickens’ Days going, organizers hope others will join them in years to come. Collier feels new people would bring new ideas with them.
But despite any challenges, Bailey just hopes Dickens’ Days helps participants see what the holidays are really about.
“It’s the time that we’re spending together,” she said.
For a complete list of Dickens’ Days events, click here.
Amber South can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 262-4771.