Rike’s Department Store in Dayton held a Thanksgving Day parade, called Rike’s Toy Parade, in Dayton from 1923 to 1942. A highlight was Santa Claus and his elves in a giant sleigh. The annual tradition ended when World War II began. RIKE’S HISTORICAL COLLECTION, SPECIAL COLLECTIONS & ARCHIVES, WRIGHT STATE UNIVERSITY
Photo: Staff Writer
Photo: Staff Writer

From the archives: Remembering the region’s enchanting holiday traditions

Every community has its beloved holiday traditions. Parades, tree lightings, and an early glimpse of Santa Claus are among the memory makers.

Vintage photographs from our newspaper and historical society archives offer a peek back at holiday celebrations in our region.


The Rike’s Toy Parade, which first kicked off the holiday shopping season in 1923, is one of Dayton’s earliest traditions.

Spectators clogged sidewalks and filled the windows of downtown buildings overlooking the spectacle as it traveled Main Street.

Among the sites was Princess Sari, a life sized-puppet, who rode her royal elephant Jumbo through the streets in 1935. The animated and gilded beast was propelled by four men underneath as she was followed by costumed escorts.

The highlight each year was Santa Claus and his merry elves, who rode into Dayton on a throne of snow and ice.

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One of 50 parade balloons featured in a two-hour Christmas Balloon Parade in downtown Springfield after Thanksgiving in 1947. CLARK COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY AT THE HERITAGE CENTER
Photo: Staff Writer

Community Christmas trees and parades are also a long-time custom in Springfield.

In 1947, a 35-foot cedar tree was displayed on the esplanade ahead of the city’s holiday season kickoff, much like today’s Holiday in the City celebration.

The tree was illuminated the day after Thanksgiving followed by a two-hour “Balloon Parade” with more than 50 looming figures bobbing through the streets of the Champion City.

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Children wait to visit Santa Claus at a Christmas party hosted by the Fairfield Parks Board at the Fairfield City Hall in December 1987. JOURNAL-NEWS ARCHIVES
Photo: Staff Writer

Christmas walks, elaborate light displays and family expeditions to tree farms are among the holiday season traditions in Butler County.

For years, families have wandered through rows of evergreens in search of the perfect tree at Kern Nursery in Liberty Twp. Singing carols on the drive home with the tree strapped to the roof is a holiday memory for many.

And nothing captures the magic and wonder of this time of year more than the expressions on children’s faces as they visit with Santa at Fairfield City Hall in 1987.