Medora Christmas Festival celebrating 50 years

MEDORA — Sponsored by the Medora civic and conservation clubs, the inaugural Medora Christmas Parade occurred in 1972.

Following the theme “Christmas means peace and happiness,” 12 units competed for trophies and cash prizes. Grades 7 through 12 at Medora Junior-Senior High School each entered floats sponsored by town merchants.

The sophomore class float won a first-place trophy and prize money of $25. Entitled “Christmas at home brings peace and happiness,” the float depicted Santa Claus and a large fireplace with a live St. Bernard lying before it. The entry was sponsored by Randy’s Market, which was a store in town operated by Joe Shields.

Fifty years later, in 2022, Shields’ name is still associated with Jackson County’s only Christmas festival. The longtime parade organizer has been selected grand marshal of the 50th annual Medora Christmas Festival’s parade, set to step off at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Over the years, activities were added to Medora’s Christmas celebration, and it evolved into a festival.

This year, the festivities begin Friday night with a tree lighting in front of the Medora Library at 6 p.m., followed by Christmas caroling led by Medora Pentecostal Church and free Christmas cookies.

Saturday kicks off with food, craft and flea market vendors opening at 9 a.m. The remaining schedule includes entertainment onstage at 9, 10 and 11 a.m., refreshments and gift card drawings from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Hague-Zabel Funeral Home and crowning of the festival prince and princess onstage at noon before the parade at 1 p.m.

Selfies with Santa and cookies with Mrs. Claus will take place after the parade at the Medora Senior Citizens Center.

The festival will conclude with a Christmas ball with live music from Shiloh from 8 p.m. to midnight at the Carr Township Conservation Club. That event, which costs $10 and is for ages 21 and up, also will include an ugly Christmas sweater contest, door prizes, a silent auction and a 50/50 drawing.

Looking back at the history of the annual event by decade, the first parade was led by the Medora Marching Hornets and included Medora fire engines and men portraying Santa Claus and Smokey Bear. After the parade, Santa distributed treats to children at the conservation clubhouse.

In 1982, the number of parade entrants ballooned to 122, and more than 3,000 people attended, according to local newspaper archives. The float categories were Medora school classes, churches, high school marching bands, special events on wheels, walking units, original antique autos, reproductions of antique autos, various vehicle classes, various horse and pony classes, business, open class and most unique. The event also included a baby contest.

By 1992, the festival spanned three days. A Light up the Town contest was conducted on the first day with prizes awarded. A dance featuring a live band was held at the conservation club on the second night. Church choirs displaying their talents, a clown with magic and balloon sculptures, a prince and princess contest, a singing performance, a flea market, food booths, crafts and fish stands all were on the schedule on the third day.

After the parade, Santa and Mrs. Claus were stationed at their shop inside Medora Town Hall.

In 2002, most of the festivities were on the first Saturday of December. A flea market, breakfast with Santa, live entertainment, a prince and princess contest and a parade were that day, and results from the Light up the Town contest, which started two days before, were announced. The parade was televised on WSLM Channel 17 of Salem.

Then in 2012, unseasonably warm weather (68 degrees) and sunny skies brought more than 1,000 people out to see the nearly 55 parade floats. Before that stepped off, a popular attraction was a pie walk where people could pay $1 for a chance to win an Amish-made pie or loaf of bread. Keeping with tradition, there also was a prince and princess contest.

If you go 

50th annual Medora Christmas Festival 


6 p.m.: Christmas tree lighting, Christmas caroling and free cookies outside the Medora Library


9 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Food, craft and flea market vendors open; refreshments and gift card drawings at Hague-Zabel Funeral Home

9 to 10 a.m.: Jerry and Amber Henson onstage

10 to 11 a.m.: TAPP’D Seymour clogging group in front of stage

11 a.m. to noon: Clarence Brown onstage

Noon: Crowning of 2022 prince and princess onstage

1 p.m.: Parade

After parade: Selfies with Santa and cookies with Mrs. Claus at the Medora Senior Citizens Center

8 p.m. to midnight: Christmas ball at the Carr Township Conservation Club (doors open at 7 p.m.; ages 21 and up; cost is $10)

For information, visit

Richard Peters, front right, and his grandson, Richard Runge, drive a horse-drawn sleigh bringing Santa Claus into Medora during the 1982 Medora Christmas Parade.

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Crowned princess and prince at the 1992 Medora Christmas Parade were April Cowles and Chris Ault.

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Joe Shields, marshal of the 1992 Medora Christmas Parade, shows parade committee member Tammy Persinger a section of the parade route.

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April Ginter, an eighth-grader at Medora Junior-Senior High School, rides on her class float “Playing in a Winter Wonderland” in the 1992 Medora Christmas Parade.

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Joe Shields rides in the Medora Christmas Parade in 2004 on a float depicting his store, Randy’s Market, which was being closed because of his health conditions.

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Dick Clampitt of Medora leads his single horse hitch carriage through the streets of downtown Medora during the 2012 Medora Christmas Parade.

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The Medora High School sophomore class went with a "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" themed float for the Medora Christmas Festival parade in 2021. File photo

Medora Christmas Festival’s 2021 prince Cayden Smith, center, gets ready to make an appearance in the Medora Christmas Festival parade with princess Macy White, top right.

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Medora STEM Academy senior Zara Carroll gets ready to toss candy at the Medora Christmas Festival parade in 2021. She was on a float inspired by the song “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”

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Santa, Mrs. Claus and the Grinch roll through Perry Street as the last float in the parade at the 2021 Medora Christmas Festival.

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