Stebbins will step down from horse parade


By Ryan Berry

GREENVILLE — The annual Hometown Holiday Horse Parade will celebrate its 20th anniversary on Saturday, Nov. 18, 7 p.m. The success of the event and continual growth of the number of parade watchers and entries over the past 12 years can be tied to the person who has been at the helm. While Main Street Greenville (MSG) executive directors have come and gone, Diana Stebbins has been there to train them as to what needs to be done. Although she has been parade chairman for the past 12 years, she has helped with the event for 13 years.

Stebbins recently announced the 2023 event will be her final year. She is reluctant to leave and admitted that she doesn’t want to leave, but continually changing circumstances have made it nearly impossible for her to continue in that role. She praised many of the past MSG directors for working with her over the years and allowing her freedom to follow her passion for the parade. She began leading the parade when Amber Schmerge was leading MSG. She said she also worked well with Amber Garrett, Crysta Hutchenson, Ryan Berry and Greg Billings. In the years that she has done the parade, there has never been a committee to organize the parade. It has mostly been Stebbins and whoever the MSG director is at the time.

Stebbins said she took over the event because it was in danger of not being continued. “Amber Schmerge told me if no one was willing to step up and take over, it was going to end,” she said. She was also told that because the parade was “grandfathered in”, if it was discontinued, it could not be started again. “Even though I was real busy at the time, I thought it was something I could do. I did not realize what all it took to do. That’s okay, it became a joy and a passion until lately,” Stebbins said.

Although she doesn’t always get to participate in the parade, especially when unexpected things happen at the staging area, she gets a thrill every time she gets to ride down Broadway. The reward for her is “the look on people’s faces when I get a chance to actually ride in my surrey down the road and see everybody’s faces along the side. They’re yelling and waving, and you can see the kids running up and down or they’re sitting there. Everybody is just watching and they’re all bright-eyed. That’s what I like.”

She said she is sometimes surprised at how big the crowd is when it is cold. “There have been times I’ve been so cold, even bundled up like I am, because I’ve got my Carharts on and I’ve actually froze.”

For her, the parade’s grand marshals stand out in her mind. “Some of them are just way beyond (excited). It makes me feel good to recognize the people that have done so much for us to give back to them. That’s what makes me feel good,” she said. She’s excited to have Matt Light serve as this year’s parade marshal. She believes that Light falls into the category of individuals that have done a lot for the community.

There have been parades cancelled due to weather, but there was one parade they didn’t have time to cancel the event. “We had an inch of snow in 20 minutes,” she recalled. “That was rough.” She said she had to have the city crews come out and salt everything. Although the horses weren’t injured, she did have a horse slip and fall in the staging area and a horse slipped and fell on Sycamore Street.

She remembered one year when the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day, but she looked at the radar and saw what was coming had to cancel. The early cancellations are a must because the parade has entries driving from over four hours away.

One of the most disappointing years for the horse parade was 2020. Stebbins recalled all the planning that went into it and the entries that had committed to participating. Then the COVID-19 numbers began going up the weekend prior. On the Tuesday prior to the event, the Darke County Health Department, out of caution, withdrew its approval to have the event.

The parade has become a staple to kick off the holiday season in Greenville and throughout Darke County. By the beginning of November, Stebbins is already hearing from people that they are getting excited about the parade. “There are people that come downtown the night before and that morning and put their chairs and blankets out. I’ve had the opportunity to drive down through there on Saturday and see all the chairs and that makes me feel so good,” she said.

Stebbins admitted she will miss the loyal horse owners that have come year-after-year. “There’s a lot of local people, but surprisingly enough, it’s about 50-50,” she said. There are entries that come from Indiana, Kentucky and from the far side Ohio. Some of the people that participate have become her friends.

She also praised the city and the assistance they have given her over the years. She talked about how Ryan Delk, when he was over the street department, always made sure she had everything she needed and now, Matt Myers and his staff provide incredible assistance. “I’ve never had one iota of complaint, backlash or anything. These people have bent over backwards for me. It’s wonderful. I feel supported,” she said.

Stebbins is hesitantly looking forward to this year’s parade. She loves the parade and the people and will definitely miss being involved.

To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected].

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