City honors ‘Ms. Christmas Parade’

Published 3:24 pm Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The phone rung constantly at Maureen Kelley’s house before Saturday’s Christmas parade.

Whether it is a question about the time of parade or people still asking if they can be in it, people were talking about the parade and Kelley had all the answers. But after 21 years of officially coordinating the parade, Kelley is hanging it up.

Kelley, 79, has lived in Alabaster more than 50 years and she has seen the parade evolve from then-Mayor Harold Rubin riding up and down Highway 31 to the two-hour, 118 participant event that it is today.

“I would say you would be more correct in calling her Ms. Alabaster Christmas Parade,” Mayor David Frings said. “That’s her thing. She adopted it from the beginning and has been there every year.”

When the parade first started with the mayor riding up the highway, the Beautification Board was not behind the operation. But after seeing that the parade could be so much more, Kelley decided to step in.

“We should do better than that,” Kelley said she told the Beautification Board.

And so the board began to organize the event. But things weren’t easy in the beginning.

“We had to do everything then, all the work, because the funds weren’t there,” Kelly said.

But just because funds for the parade are more prevalent these days, it doesn’t make organizing the parade much easier.

The process begins in July and the board aims to have everything in place by October and finalized by November.

“But it doesn’t ever happen that way,” Kelley said with a laugh. “It’s really a big undertaking.”

And it’s an undertaking that Frings said could have only been handled by a person like Kelley over these last 21 years.

“If you’re in Alabaster, you’re either in the parade or at the parade,” Frings said. “You get people who will volunteer all the time, but having somebody do it that long is a big event and it says a lot about her tenacity.”

And Frings has been ecstatic to have had Kelley organize the event through the years. And even with this being Kelley’s last year, Frings said the Christmas Parade will always have a place for her.

“We want her to work with the parade as long as she wants to,” Frings said.

As a special honor this year, Kelley was chosen as the grand marshal.

The board has asked Kelley to be the marshal several times before, but Kelley said they wouldn’t take no for an answer this year.

“I told them if they wanted to get rid of me, that was one way,” Kelley said with a laugh. “I’m thrilled they thought that much of me, but it was a really big surprise.”