BY LEANN DILBECK –
The Bearcats earning Mena the distinct privilege of hosting the semi-finals of the State 4A Football Championship forced Christmas Parade & Festival organizers to the table on Monday morning to consider how best to handle the schedule conflict of what is considered to be the biggest local football game hosted in Bearcat Stadium.
Representatives from the Mena Advertising and Promotion Commission, the City of Mena, and the Mena/Polk County Chamber of Commerce met independently, as well as collectively, and concluded to keep the original date but move the 2014 “Christmas in the Ouachitas” Parade from its traditional time of 6 p.m. to 5 p.m. to be followed by the Christmas performance of Lana Gail & Gail Force, the lighting of Janssen Park and the spectacular fireworks display at 6 p.m.
Because the event has grown beyond the parade to include a host of other activities, a new date would mean losing many of the vendors and create hardships for many of the non-profit organizations and churches that would be unable to participate in the transformation of Maple Street to “Memory Lane,” serving holiday snacks and warm winter beverages. Officials recognized that no rescheduling decision could be made that would please everyone but felt compelled to accommodate and honor the Mena Bearcat Football team and their momentous accomplishment.
The parade route has also been shortened to ensure the parade concludes on time for the Janssen Park festivities. The parade will begin on north Mena Street and proceed south, making a right turn onto Martin Street (at the corner of Herod’s Dept. Store) and then another right onto DeQueen Street; a left onto Hwy 71, and then another right onto 7th Street and will then conclude at the entrance of Janssen Park and then disassemble.
An inclement weather plan was also determined. Chamber Executive Director Paula Bailey said that if severe weather remains in the forecast on Thursday afternoon, all parade and festival activities will be rescheduled to Saturday, December 6th with the parade at 5 p.m. Some parade participants and vendors will be lost as a result but weather is, unfortunately, beyond anyone’s control. Announcements will be made late Thursday if necessary. City Councilwoman and A&P Commissioner Terri Neugent remained positive and added, “Cold weather and rain has not stopped the festival before and will not again this year unless it is heavy or severe.”
The Armory activities scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. will remain unchanged. A jump house, 30-ft. slide, and an array of Christmas games and crafts will proceed as scheduled. Organizers say that Santa will also take time out of his busy holiday schedule to attend along with Mrs. Claus. The dynamo duo in red will be in the DeQueen Street Armory beginning at 4 p.m. for pictures by photographer Rita Keener.
After an afternoon of fun, officials hope everyone will pack Bearcat Stadium to cheer on the Mena Bearcats as they seek to skin the Malvern Leopards for their chance to play in the 4A State Championships to be held on December 13th at noon in War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.