MEDORA

A little cold weather couldn’t keep people from lining both sides of Perry Street on Saturday for the highlight of the year in this small community in southwestern Jackson County.

The annual Christmas parade, generally conducted on the first Saturday of December each year since 1972, serves as a way for many of those in attendance, such as Tim Reynolds, to kick off the holiday season.

The Medora resident said he enjoys the event, now known as the Medora Christmas Festival, because of all it has to offer and for the opportunity to see friends and family.

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“It’s like one big family reunion, really,” he said.

Reynolds recently joined the committee that organizes the festival, which is a tradition to many local residents.

“It’s really turned into a community thing and at one time, (it) was the largest in Indiana,” he said of the Christmas parade.

Reynolds said he also enjoys the festival because it brings back fond memories from his childhood. Over the years, the parade has been conducted despite inclement weather.

“I can remember when I was a kid coming up here and there would be six inches of snow, and they would park two school buses on the end of the street here and keep them warm,” he said. “I remember coming up here with my grandmother as a kid in all of that mess and sitting in that bus and watching the parade go by.”

Judy Kriete of Seymour brought her daughter, Bethany, to the festival. They walked through all of the craft booths and watched the parade before stopping by the Medora Library to meet Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus. Kriete said the two had fun walking through the festival.

“We just came to see the parade and let her see Santa and have a good time,” Judy Kriete said

Kriete said her sister used to live in Medora, and they have continued the tradition of coming to the festival.

“We always come every year for the parade,” she said.

The festival also featured several craft booths to allow people to do a little Christmas shopping.

The owners of Guthrie Creek Woodcrafts was set up along Main Street selling handcrafted wooden items. They have participated in the festival for the past 15 or 20 years.

“We like seeing all of the people and meeting new people,” said Paige Earl, whose father, Jerry Shepard, started the business.

Earl, Shepard and Earl’s husband, Frank, worked the booth, selling a variety of items.

“We have hand-carved wooden walking sticks, hand-carved wooden spoons, log candles and handmade wooden toys,” Earl said.

The three work together to produce the items. Earl said some of the items take longer to make than others.

“Jerry makes the wooden toys, I make the wooden candles and Frank makes the wooden spoons and walking sticks,” she said.

Woodworking is the family’s hobby, she said.

“We use a drill press, and it takes a half-hour to make a set of the candles,” she said. “Frank’s wooden spoons take more time, probably a month to make. And the toys we can probably get out in three evenings or so.”

Reynolds said while the festival is something families still continue to make a part of their holiday tradition, it could use some reorganizing and new events.

The festival formerly was known as the Medora Christmas Parade, so the committee is first going to attempt to get more participation in the parade and then add interactive activities.

“The first thing we feel like we need to do is get the parade back,” he said. “With six of us on the committee, we weren’t able to implement everything we wanted to. But we are going to add four more members next year, and we have some pretty cool ideas in store for next year.”

Those ideas include scheduling more events for the stage, where music is now featured throughout the day.

Reynolds said that while music is vital to the festival, there needs to be more activities to attract more people.

“We’ve talked about having a Christmas cookie eating contest, an ugly sweater contest and Christmas karaoke,” he said. “We want it to be more interactive.”

Reynolds said when the event was started by four members of the Carr Township Volunteer Fire Department in 1972, it took over much of the town. The committee wants to build the festival to that size again.

“We want to bring it back to the way it was, get new ideas and stick to the traditions,” he said.

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Jordan Richart is a correspondent for The (Seymour) Tribune.