The 'Coming Home for Christmas' parade was dreamed up and organized by the Picher Reunion Committee, and they have now made the very unique parade an annual event.
PICHER – There are few buildings, no homes, no businesses, no residents, no children...but Picher still exists in the hearts of many despite the official closure of the little mining town. The magic of Christmas has brought thousands into town the past two years for the Picher Christmas Parade, and for one special day, the town comes to joyful life.
The third annual Picher Christmas Parade is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 2, and hopes are the event will draw as many or more back to Picher.
The 'Coming Home for Christmas' parade was dreamed up and organized by the Picher Reunion Committee, and they have now made the very unique parade an annual event. The parade may be the only one that occurs in a town that no longer exists officially, but it is becoming a holiday tradition.
The Picher Reunion Committee members are Sue Sigle, Suzy Stone, Debbie Barnes, Shirley Sharbutt, Donna Reeves, Paula Suman, Tish Freeman Tammy Roberts, Stacy Koger and Sherri Mills.
“In 2015 what started as a nostalgic whim to hold a Picher Christmas Parade in a town that basically didn't exist anymore became magical,” organizer and Picher Reunion Committee member Sherri Mills said.
The first parade in 2014 was a big success with 35 entries and over a thousand spectators.
“I wasn't really sure we could or would top that, but when it was time to start on the second annual I was amazed people were coming to me asking if they could be in the parade, and again the streets were packed for the second annual parade with more entries than the first year with floats, bands, bikers, emergency departments, even an alumni Picher High School (PHS) band marched down the street playing the school song,” Mills said. “The 1984 championship football team threw out red and footballs. They still hold the title of ‘champs’ in the area today. Over 60 entries marched through the town.”
The once thriving little town of Picher dissolved slowly into a ghost town as the result of a devastating F-4 tornado, a federal super-fund buyout and the demolition of lead-contaminated properties from mining waste. The parade has become a reunion of sorts and a yearly celebration.
Mills said she hopes this is the one day of the year people can go back to the town and it’s not sad for them who miss Picher.
“People were happy and having fun visiting and seeing old friends and neighbors,” Mills said. “This is how I remember Picher. The parades we are having and the people coming are not just a show. This is how we really were, our town supported whatever was going on. Friday night football was no exception, winning or losing. You just knew what you were doing on Friday nights. Hayman Field was the place you would be.”
After the first two parades, many former residents were seen and heard reminiscing and visiting their fondest and most meaningful Picher locations, such as old homesteads, schools, and business sites. In their memories, these places still exist.
“Our town was small, and there was not a lot to do, but it was home,” Mills said. “I’m so thankful that we still have the support of our town to put on such a fun event to bring people home for one of the most loved holidays. ‘Coming Home for Christmas,’ even if its only for a few hours, it’s something we all need. I think this year will be no exception to having a good parade.”
You don’t have to come from Picher or have lived there to attend or enjoy the parade. There’s something special and nostalgic about the event that inspires Christmas and the holiday spirit in all.
“It was so amazing to see all the people lined up, it’s exciting every year. I’m already getting phone calls about wanting to be added to the Picher Parade and how much is the entry fee. We will never charge anyone to be part of this annual event,” Mills vowed.
Those interested in entering the parade may contact Sherri Mills at 918-541-5805.
The parade participants will line up as they arrive at A Street from the Picher High School on the old Sports Complex parking lot. Emergency vehicles will lead the parade starting at the old D&D Drive-In with the Grand Marshal following.
“This year’s Grand Marshal will be the past and present emergency volunteers and fire and ambulance, as a special thank you to these men and women that volunteered their time and supported the town of Picher,” Mill said. “We are asking that all volunteers please meet at the D&D Drive-In location by 9:30 a.m. to ride in the parade. Following the parade, all volunteers are asked to please meet at the Fire Station for a group picture.”
The Gary Building, previously the Ole Miner Pharmacy and named for beloved pharmacist, the late Gary Linderman, will be open during the parade with Picher Gorilla items such as the new yearly commemorative Christmas ornaments for sale and access to public restrooms. Many historical photos will also be on display to view.
This year specially designed ‘Coming home for Christmas’ sweatshirts and long sleeved t-shirts are being sold and will be available at the Gary Building for purchase during the parade and at Suzy’s Thrift and Gift store in Miami.
Free hot chocolate and coffee will be served, and fresh donuts donated by the Miami Wal-Mart will be sold for a dollar to help fund the Picher All School Reunion. Donations will also be accepted at the Gary Building during the event to help build the Picher Memorial.
The Ottawa County Barn in Picher, also known previously as Picher City Hall, will be open during and after the parade for public restroom availability. The Ottawa County Barn also has a collection of Picher mining photos to view.
During the week the Picher All School Reunion Committee with the help of the Quapaw Tribe Fire/EMS will be decorating in Picher to set a festive holiday mood, even the Picher Gorilla mascot statue gets some holiday cheer and makes a great photo opportunity.
“We’ll have Santa there after the parade for pictures,” Mills said.
The Quapaw Tribal Marshals, Oklahoma Highway Patrol and Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office all help with traffic control and detouring on the busy roadway during the parade.
“The Picher Reunion and Parade Committee would like to say thanks to all that come and support the parade. We couldn’t do it without you,” Mills said.
Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.