By DOUG GRAVES
LEBANON, Ohio – For the 31st straight season, the city of Lebanon, Ohio ushered in the holiday season with its Horse Drawn Carriage Parade and Festival.
Warren County is known as the “hotbed of horses” in Ohio, so on Dec. 7 horsemen from Ohio were joined by those in Kentucky, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Michigan — who all took part in this horse-only parade.
“Ohio is a big horse state as we rank fourth in the country with horses, behind California, Texas and Kentucky,” said Catherine Estill, president of the southwest chapter of the Ohio Horsemen’s Council and state secretary of the State Ohio Horsemen’s Council.
The event, hosted by the Lebanon Area Chamber of Commerce, is always held the first Saturday in December, rain or shine. Parades are held at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., the latter being by candlelight. Only horse-drawn carriages are allowed in this parade, which is nearly a mile long and includes just more than 100 carriages. The parade, which includes Clydesdales, Percherons, miniatures and others, winds down the heart of Broadway. Food and craft vendors were abundant along Mulberry and Mechanic Streets.
“The Horse Drawn Carriage Parade is quite popular and attracts no less than 60,000 each season,” Estill said.
“Ohio ranks high with its horses and most of those are pleasure horses. Economically, the racing industry (with its standardbreds) has the largest impact on the state and when you add in the horse feed, tack and apparel it’s in the millions of dollars.”
Charlie Poppe of Meadowbrook Farm in Cincinnati, recalled participating in the first Lebanon Carriage Parade in 1989. Just 30 were invited to participate, he said, and the temperature that day was six degrees above zero. During the evening parade the temperature was four degrees below zero.
In 2014, Poppe drove his Hackney Pony geldings and the vehicle he drove was build for the 1876 Centennial in Philadelphia. At the end of that celebration, the carriage was purchased by Sara Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s mother. It was used in their estate on Fifth Avenue in New York. This same carriage was used during a couple of his inaugurations. In previous parades, Poppe has driven carriages owned by Clark Gable, Jimmy Cagney and the DuPonts.
Mark Langdon of Centerville, Ind., assisted his brother-in-law with his eight miniatures at this year’s parades. Steve Bowling of Henderson, Ky., was among those guiding a six-horse draft hitches pulling beer wagons. Other breeds represented included Appaloosas, Arabians, Belgians, Friesians, a Gypsy Vanner, Halfingers, Morgans, quarter horses, a Shetland pony, Tennessee Walkers, a mustang, donkeys and mules.
“If you go to Lebanon any time of the year it’s very pretty, but it’s simply magical on parade day,” said Julie Robinson of Flint, Mich., “because they light the entire town up with thousands of little white lights. That really sets the mood for the holiday season.”
Lebanon, which was founded in 1802, is located half way between Dayton and Cincinnati. Famous former Lebanon residents include astronaut Neil Armstrong who lived on a farm outside of the city, actor Woody Harrelson of Cheers fame. Two motion pictures were filmed in Lebanon: Harper Valley TPA starring Barbara Eden in 1979, and Milk Money featuring Ed Harris and Melanie Griffith in 1994.
Lebanon is also home to the Golden Lamb Inn. The inn was built in 1803 and is on the National Historic Register. Twelve U.S. presidents and a large number of other famous people including Mark Twain, Charles Dickens and Harriet Beecher Stowe have stayed at the inn.
SIDEBAR IF NEEDED
Tractors bring in the holiday season in Ansonia, Ohio
While those in Lebanon kickoff the holiday season with adorned carriages, the folk in Ansonia, Ohio kicked off the season with their second annual Lighted Tractor parade.
Tractors were not the only spectacle in this parade. Joining many tractors through the streets of this small northern Ohio city were ATVs, RTVs, large trucks and other agriculture-related vehicles. All, of course, had to be decorated with lights. An entry fee of $25 was charged to participate with the proceeds benefiting the Ansonia Volunteer Fire Department.