Executive Director Liz Robbins of the Garland County Historical Society has accepted the invitation to serve as grand marshal of this year’s Oaklawn Rotary Christmas Parade, to be held at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, December 5 in downtown Hot Springs.
“This year’s parade theme, ‘Visions of Christmas Long Ago,’ honors the important role that history plays in our community, including the longstanding tradition of the Christmas parade,” said Lee Richardson, parade chair. “The Historical Society provided photos of some really impressive floats from earlier years. We can’t wait to see how each parade entry will incorporate this year’s theme.”
Robbins is a Hot Springs native and a graduate of Hot Springs High School. She holds a BSE in education from the University of Arkansas and an MA in English and history from New Mexico Highlands University. Going into teaching seemed very natural to her, for her parents, Guy and Dorothy Robbins, worked for the Hot Springs School District for many years. He was its business manager, and she was an elementary teacher and then principal at Gardner and Jones Elementary Schools.
After teaching in Las Vegas, New Mexico, for eight years, Robbins returned to Hot Springs in 1980 and taught at Lakeside Junior High School for the next twenty-six years. She retired from teaching in June 2007 and two weeks later began a “second life” as the executive director of the Garland County Historical Society. She has written articles for and is the editor of the society’s yearly journal, The Record, which has won many awards from the Arkansas Historical Association. She is on the Board of Directors of the Arkansas State Archives.
“I grew up in a house filled with books, especially history books,” Robbins recounted. “My father loved learning about the past, and my older brothers, Charles and Richard, and I soaked up his passion about history. Topics of conversation when we were kids would veer from the Civil War to FDR to moonshining or to a thousand other fascinating things. After Dad retired, I would often go with him to explore Little Fir and Mount Ida, and he would tell me wonderful stories about the people he knew as he grew up in those communities just before and during the Depression. That taught me how fascinating local history can be.
“So with my love of history, I have been blessed to work for GCHS. One of the best parts of working at the society is working with our volunteers, who are incredibly dedicated, funny, creative, and caring. I love learning about our incredibly interesting past here in Garland County, and I love helping other people learn about it, too, by doing things like helping researchers and giving programs to civic groups and schools. And I’ve learned even more about our community of today by being a part of groups like the Hot Springs National Park Rotary and Friends of the Garland County Courthouse.
“The annual Christmas parade is a very special part of our community’s history. I’ve looked at so many photographs of parades past. The storefronts and clothing styles change, but the excitement on the faces of the kids watching the beautiful floats is always the same.
“One of my favorite memories is of marching in the Christmas parades in 1965 and 1966 as a Hot Springs High School T-Stepper. We couldn’t wait for the parades to start because our uniform skirts were very short, and moving helped us warm up a little! We had great fun despite the cold! I never dreamed, as I swung my gold pom-poms down Central Avenue, that I would have the great honor many years later of serving as grand marshal of this remarkable tradition.
"I know people will enjoy seeing the ‘Visions of Christmas Long Ago’ that so many groups have worked hard to create. Of course, I love the theme! Remembering the past in a gorgeous parade that celebrates the season—what could be better!”
The Christmas Parade application deadline is 5 p.m. on Friday, November 18. The official parade entry form and parade rules are available at www.HotSpringsChristmasParade.com . Inquiries may be directed to HotSpringsChristmasParade@gmail.com . Parade sponsors include Ouachita Financial Advisors; Trent’s Floor Solutions; Genesis Cancer Center; Sanders Plumbing Supply; Jordan Woosley Crone & Keaton; Hospice Home Care; Steamatic and Simmons Bank.