In the nearly three decades since its inception, the annual Parade of Lights has seen all that our downtown has been through. Decked out in red, white, and blue, the parade saw our downtown cheering on our country and begin healing in 2001. The parade saw the economic hardships of 2008 and its importance in bringing the community downtown to support struggling merchants. And for this year, the parade will have to be flexible in working around the new additions to Capaha Park, including the updated baseball stadium
The Parade of Lights would be considered a part of the Millennial generation—a product of the ‘90s. It began in 1993 with Doc Cain, owner of Port Cape Restaurant, bringing the idea of a Christmas parade to a Downtown Merchants Association meeting. After some skepticism, the first Parade of Lights, which took place on November 28, 1993, ended up being a success. With Doc as coordinator of the event for the first 6 years, it rapidly grew from 53 entries the first year to over 100 in 1995 and after.
Since 1999, Kent and Vicki Zickfield have taken over as coordinators of the parade. During their time of leadership, the Zickfields saw the 2005 transition of the parade from the hands of the Downtown Merchants Association to Old Town Cape. In the past years, the parades that have stood out most to Kent were those postponed due to bad weather. He said he worried over low turnout but was surprised by “tremendous attendance.” Kent describes his wife, Vicki, as being “extraordinarily imaginative and creative” in coming up with new themes each year. She is even usually a year or two ahead of the game with her theme ideas. Through the years, the Parade of Lights has become a favorite local tradition to kick off the Christmas season with lights and music.
My information came from an interview with Kent Zickfield, Old Town Cape documents, and the archives of the Southeast Missourian. Through my research of Southeast Missourian articles, I happened across this adorable cartoon drawn by one of Cape’s most talented and beloved local artists, Don Greenwood! Enjoy the cartoon & experience the Parade of Lights as a true Cape rat this Sunday at 5 pm!