GREENVILLE — This year has seen its share of milestones and celebrations for Roger Van Frank. Van Frank has served as director of the Darke County Park District (DCP) for 20 years. This year is also the 50th anniversary of the park district. Van Frank will retire from DCP on Dec. 31.
Before that happens, he’ll add another milestone memory from his time in Darke County. Van Frank serves as the Grand Marshal for the 19th annual Hometown Holiday Horse Parade in downtown Greenville on Nov. 19.
Van Frank attended his first Hometown Holiday Horse Parade when he arrived in town in 2003. The traditional parade featuring lighted single riders and hitches fits perfectly with what Van Frank has done with the park district the past 20 years.
“It’s family oriented. It’s another event, in the way I look at it, it’s a free event that draws family together,” Van Frank said. “It’s the particular time of the year that’s designed for families to have a nice evening.”
The Hometown Holiday Horse Parade had a record 128 entries last year. The lighted horse caravan, hosted by Main Street Greenville, starts at 7 p.m. The parade starts on Martin Street near Annie Oakley Park, travels up South Broadway Street toward the circle, goes around the circle and returns down South Broadway back to the Martin Street area.
To participate in the parade visit mainstreetgreenville.org for an entry form. Sponsorship forms are also available.
When Van Frank arrived in Greenville he was asked in an interview how long he anticipated holding the position of director? Van Frank figured 10, maybe 15 years. “I love my job,” Van Frank said. “I’d do it another 44 years. I love parks and recreation and what we’re designed to do. This is the most giving community I’ve ever worked in.”
Van Frank credits his longevity as director to – among other factors – a great staff, wonderful volunteers and the support of his family, especially his wife, Connie. “One, the volunteers. I can’t do it without their help. We are what we are because of what the volunteers have helped make us,” Van Frank said. “I’m also proud of my employees. We have a very cohesive group of employees. You know what’s great about them? They all care about the resources.”
In addition to serving as park district director, Van Frank also worked for the Ohio State Parks, was assistant manager at Hueston Woods State Park, taught at the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy and also with the State Teachers’ Retirement System of Ohio. He also served on several boards including the American Red Cross, Rotary and the Darke County Visitors Bureau.
Van Frank, who lives near Oxford, looks forward to fishing and scuba diving in his retirement. Until then he’ll continue to lead the Darke County Park District. And work on his parade appearance.
“I’ve been practicing my wave,” Van Frank said, grinning. “It’ll be fun to see those that attend and be able to recognize the success of the Park District. The community, the city and the county all gather around Greenville for the event. The decorations. The vendors. Everyone participates in this. It really does draw the community together. It draws the family together.
“My hope is there is a little chill or a little bit in the air so people are bundled up and enjoying it. The downtown is beautiful. You can’t go just anywhere and find this. I’m excited to participate. I thank the community and the folks who are part of this community for giving me this opportunity.”
The Hometown Holiday Horse Parade ushers in the holiday season in the downtown district and last year’s parade had more than 100 lighted horses, carriages and wagons. The event – voted Ohio Magazine’s Parade of the Year in 2014, 2015, 2019 and 2020 – brings an estimated 8,000-plus spectators to downtown Greenville.
To participate in the parade visit mainstreetgreenville.org/hometown-holiday-horse-parade to download a registration form or fill out a digital entry. Businesses wanting to provide financial support can also download a sponsorship form at the same link.
Participants can also contact chairperson Diana Stebbins at 937-606-4776 or by email at [email protected]
Event host Main Street Greenville reminds spectators to stay off the street during the parade – including stretching feet and legs into the street – and to refrain from crossing South Broadway once the parade begins.
Dogs are also not permitted at the parade to avoid startling the horses.
In addition, parade organizers request no drones or laser pointers be used during the parade due to the risk of spooking the horses.
“We want everyone to have an enjoyable experience at the horse parade – both spectators and participants – and that includes a safe environment,” said Greg Billing, Executive Director of Main Street Greenville. “We love to see dogs downtown during typical days, but we ask you not bring them to this event out of courtesy for the participants and other attendees. Horses can be easily startled and we want to be respectful to our participants as well.”
Efforts will be made to space out participants compared to the 2021 event allowing spectators more time to enjoy each festively decorated entry.
Main Street Greenville, a non-profit organization that has coordinated the event since 2004, wants to acknowledge and say thank you to the volunteers that help bring this event to our community. “This event helps to highlight our beautiful downtown to those who live here and those who visit. It is a great way to start your family’s holiday celebrations,” said Diana Stebbins, 2022 Parade Chairperson.
Pre-parade festivities begin at 5 p.m. and include live music performances, snack and drink vendors and free pony rides at Annie Oakley Park. A full schedule will be posted on Main Street Greenville’s website, mainstreetgreenville.org/hometown-holiday-horse-parade, as the event gets closer.
Visit www.mainstreetgreeville.org or www.facebook.com/mainstreetgreenville for more information about Main Street Greenville, the 19th annual Hometown Holiday Horse Parade and other MSG events.
Main Street Greenville can also be reached by calling 937-548-4998 or emailing [email protected]