It Takes a Village to Stage an Iconic Christmas Parade
Editor’s Note: Doug and Michelle Myer have lived and worked in the Middleburg area for more than ten years and started volunteering on Christmas in Middleburg in 2019. They fully took over the annual Christmas parade in 2021. Country ZEST recently asked them all about it, and they somehow found the time to graciously answer our all our questions.
Q: How did you both get involved with Christmas in Middleburg to begin with, and how did you end up running it after long-time organizer Jim Herbert stepped down?
A: Doug first met Jim in 2019 at a local men's bible study called First Tuesday. He and Doug started a conversation and realized we all had several things in common. Our primary business was very similar to one Jim had for many years. That connection started our volunteer relationship with the parade. Michelle's business started answering calls and emails and helping support the back office efforts, with Doug volunteering for the pre-planning and event day activities.
Q: When do you start working on the parade, and how much time do you devote to it, particularly in the last few months?
A: We both meet with the Middleburg Town Council in January each year to do a recap and review of the event. Our volunteer board meets bi-weekly starting in the Spring, and weekly beginning in July each year. We choose the emcees and identify sponsorship opportunities for the year.
Q: Have you made any changes to the parade since you first started doing it, and what's your general philosophy on what the parade should be, both in who participates and how long you want it to run?
A: We have tried to keep it the same as years prior, and include all of the community participants, bands, and local non-profits. If we have made any changes, it's the duration of the parade. We plan to have the parade end at 4 p.m. to allow visitors to safely exit before dark, and have them visit our shops on their way out of town.
Q: I know it takes a village to get all of this done. Who are some of the key people you count on to help you out?
A: Our board members and volunteers make this event possible. The Town of Middleburg Police Department, our host sponsors and all of the event spaces that donate their locations for parking are also instrumental in the parade's success.
Q: Who pays for all of this, and ball park, how much does it cost?
A: For many years, the Town of Middleburg was a financial partner, granting Christmas in Middleburg funding for the parade. Michelle, as a member of the Cultural and Community Events Committee, understood the need for the parade, a 501c3, to stand on its own financially, and did not receive a town grant for 2023. We rely primarily on parking revenue to pay for our costs, which exceed $80,000 on average for the event. The town decided in 2021 to remove in-town parking, asking all visitors to park at three designated locations outside of the town limits, and necessitating a more comprehensive transportation and safety plan from Christmas in Middleburg.
Q: Describe what you both do when the parade is over, the thousands have left town, and the cheering has stopped.
A: Doug follows Santa down the parade route back to The Hill School and confirms that all of the parade participants return to their line-up locations safely. Right after Perry Robinson's team proceeds down the parade route cleaning up all of the candy, trash, and other fun stuff from Route 50, our barricade vendor begins collecting the barricades to allow Route 50 to re-open. I typically connect with all of our volunteers and coordinate the return of all of our golf carts and gators. We then connect with Chief of Police Shaun Jones and the other law enforcement officers to confirm safe exit of visitors. We connect with Point to Point Limo (our bus vendor) to confirm final delivery of visitors to our three parking locations. We finally, wrap up with Tom Santmyer to confirm that his team of volunteers have cleared the lots, and what cars are remaining after 6 p.m.
For everyone involved in putting on the parade, it’s truly a labor of love. At the end of the day, we do it for our own kids and the kids of the entire surrounding area. Keeping the legacy alive is our first concern.