There will be no Christmas Parade this year, but in response, several initiatives are in the works to bring displays of the Christmas spirit to town, and the Paragould Advertising and Promotion Commission has gotten behind another one, the Lights of Paragould.
As explained by organizer Trevor Gramling in the presentation of his grant application to the commission at its Nov. 12 meeting, the Lights of Paragould is a community-based, drive-through Christmas lights show at the Greene County Fairgrounds. Expecting the cost of the project to be $16,000, Gramling requested, and got, $12,000 from the commission. The event is to take place Dec. 7-12. At the commission’s insistence, $2,000 of the grant is to be used for promotion of the event, with the other $10,000 to buy four professional, commercially made light displays. In addition, the displays will become property of the city of Paragould until such time as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization forms to take charge of both the displays, and management and operation of the event, in the future. “I think that will satisfy the auditors,” said commission chair Jeremy Biggs.
Interested individuals and groups have also either expressed interest in participating, or have already signed up to participate, designing and building their own Christmas-themed displays, Gramling said.
“We wanted to keep some kind of normalcy in 2020,” he told the commission, “with everything being so crazy.”
“Will these displays make or break it?” asked commissioner Kimberly Dale. “No,” Gramling responded. “But it’ll add to it.”
He said there are already more than 30 groups, including churches, businesses and Boy Scout groups, plus individuals, who had signed up to participate with displays. “And we are hoping for about 50,” he said. “We have applications out and they have until Thanksgiving to get them in,” he said. “I have full faith in the community.”
Space available provides for a total of 107 25-foot-square booths. Gramling’s wife Kayla said the entry fee for anyone wanting to have a display is $20.
As part of his application package, Gramling presented a letter from Greene County Fair Board president Bryan Privett granting the use of the fairgrounds for up to three weeks, “or as needed,” beginning the first week of December. “They were ecstatic to donate three weeks,” he said.
In addition, he told the board he has lined up Caps Plus as a sponsor, and was working on others. “And the Greene County Community Fund wants to support us and to sponsor the entrance at the back of the livestock barn,” he said. And his own company, Southern Soil Outfitters, is to spend $2,000 on administrative and operating costs of the event.
As envisioned, the entrance to the display will be on Highway 49-Business, Gramling said. “It will set up on the midway of the fairgrounds,” he said. “We anticipate we can accommodate 250-300 cars, and maybe up to 400 if we squeeze it.”
The event does not yet have a price of admission set, but Gramling’s application package indicated it would be no more than $5 per vehicle. Admission and entry fees will go to cover expenses; any excess funds are to be donated to the Greene County Foster Parents Association.