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With no 'Christmas,' Tulsa group plans own parade

Upset that Tulsa's official holiday parade no longer includes the word "Christmas" in its title, a handful of residents say they will stage a separate parade for those who want to honor the reason for the season.

Tulsa Christmas Parade LLC will hold its parade near a shopping center Saturday night — at the same time as the community's festivities downtown.

"You look at Christmas cards now, and how many say, "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings?" asked Mark Croucher, the president of the new parade group. "I'm just asking for let's have Christ in the parade. He stood up for us and died for us 2,000 years ago, and now it's time we stand up and honor him."

The director of the city's parade, which dates to the 1930s, finds the dueling group Grinch-like.

"If they want to put on a Christmas parade, that's their prerogative," said Larry Fox, downtown's parade director. "It's certainly unfortunate it's the exact same time on the exact same date because people can't be in both places at the same time."

Tulsa dropped the word "Christmas" from the title of its Parade of Lights in 2009, and the spat has grown increasingly nasty.

Even U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe of Tulsa has weighed in. He won't appear in the official parade because the word "Christmas" was removed from its title, but won't ride in the new parade either. Instead, he'll take part in smaller parades at Catoosa, Coweta and Owasso.

"For my own purpose, Christmas means the birth of Christ to me," Inhofe said Thursday. "If Jesus isn't there, I'm not there."

The dispute is similar to that at the Rhode Island Statehouse, where Gov. Lincoln Chafee has opted to refer to the building's spruce tree as a "holiday" tree. The decision has angered lawmakers, religious leaders and thousands of constituents who flooded his office to complain that the governor was trying to secularize Christmas.

Tulsa businessmen David Arnett, who protested at City Hall when the word "Christmas" was officially dropped from the parade's name, predicted the new parade on the city's southwest side will quickly build a following despite the downtown festivities also including an an ice-skating rink, concessions and horse-and-carriage rides. Last year's Winterfest celebration drew more than 120,000 people downtown.

"We have the larger parade," Arnett boasted. "We have a Tulsa Christmas parade and it's going to be the kind of tradition and history that has happened in Tulsa for some 80-odd years. This year, we will parade for Christmas."

But not everyone views the flap as one over political correctness. Even when "Christmas" was officially in the title, many locals still referred to the event simply as the Parade of Lights — a tradition many had grown up with since they were kids, like Tulsa mom Heather Hope-Hernandez.

"Frankly, I have for many years referred to it as the parade of lights; it made no difference to me and my family," Hernandez said, who added that she is eager to take her 2-year-old downtown this weekend to see the parade and snag a glimpse of the big man himself, Santa Claus. "As the world gets smaller and we come in contact with other people who are not like ourselves or practice other religions, it seems to be a no-brainer to open your arms to celebrate with them because they're your neighbors."

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