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Tracie Bennitt

Twenty-one years ago there was talk in Woodland Park of the winter parade going away. This is when a community of family and friends decided to take on the mission and maintain the tradition. Since then, there has been a neverending parade of people, pun intended, who are willing to help us make the annual event unique. The Lighter Side of Christmas Parade committee was born and continues to bring a lighter side to the holidays each season.

The annual parade is a family outing at night so you can just imagine how cold it can be on the first Saturday in December. LSOC partners with Northeast Teller Fire and the Sheriff’s Posse to keep fires burning in barrels along the parade route. The “warm your bum” fires are sponsored by businesses. Owners usually stand near their fire and hand out candy or cocoa.

LSOC selects a beneficiary for the parade’s extra funds each year. Some of the past nonprofits have successfully raised over $10,000. This is beneficial for an organization at the end of the year. Your nonprofit can download the application at lightersideofchristmas.com.

Trophies are awarded for floats in different categories. This year we’ve added a new category to memorialize Tad Litwin who was an active parade volunteer and recently passed away. The theme of the parade each year celebrates a humorous angle on an anniversary that’s happening. This year’s theme is “Woodland Park’s Christmas Vacation.”

Williams Log Furniture always gets involved with the parade by sponsoring Mike’s Crazy Hat Contest. This is in memory of our good friend, Mike Williams. He loved wearing a festive hat while judging the parade.

Most people on the parade committee own small businesses so we began a Holiday Treasure Hunt. LSOC hides an object in Woodland Park and the clues are available at each Gold Sponsors’ location. The prize is a basket containing over $1,000 worth of coupons and gifts. It’s a fun way to get in the holiday spirit while visiting local shops.

LSOC partners with the City of Woodland Park on the parade, the annual fireworks display and the Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

People ask me why I do this because it takes a lot of time and energy. I love to see the excitement of the kids on the floats and then the smiles on their parents’ faces as their float passes by. The sense of holiday and being a part of something bigger than self makes the Lighter Side of Christmas Parade one of the finest community things I’ve ever been involved in. It’s the heart of tradition with family and friends. It’s marching into the future with the promise of something better around the next corner.

To be part of the Teller Gives Back column please connect with Gayle Gross at iwantto@soarwithnetworkfundraising.com or call 719-233-9902

Tracie Bennitt moved to Teller County in 1990 from Indiana. She has a bachelor’s in animal sciences from Purdue University and she’s co-owner of Dinosaur Brokers LLC and PaleoBOND (glue) with her husband John. She brings people together to do amazing things and keeping the winter parade alive in Woodland Park is just one example.

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