For the first time in over two decades, The Bend Christmas Parade will be without its long-time chairman Ernie Gilpin.
“He loved every aspect of it,” Gaye Gilpin, Ernie’s wife said. “He just tried to make it the best.”
Ernie joined the parade as a committee member in 1992, soon after, he became chairman and held that role for close to 30 years.
Gaye says it was an event Ernie put his whole heart into.
“If we could’ve gotten the New York Rockettes, he would’ve gotten them,” Gilpin said. “A lot of times I kind of had to say to him, you know, that’s not going to happen.”
Parade aside, Christmas has always been a special time of year for Ernie and Gaye.
“I went to his apartment and I was decorating one of those tinsel trees that goes around in a circle, and these little notes came around and said ‘will you marry me’ with a question mark,” Gilpin said. “So that was my first introduction to his sense of humor and how he valued the Christmas season.”
Ernie passed away in 2020, a year when Bend did not have a parade due to COVID-19.
“How ironic for him to pass away that year,” Gilpin said. “Because I don’t know how the parade would have gone on without him.”
This year’s parade chairman will be Michael Sipe, who says he wants to make Ernie proud.
“Gives us an opportunity to celebrate the Gilpin family, to celebrate Ernie’s legacy, to celebrate Christmas, to celebrate the birth of Christ, to celebrate our community,” Sipe said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity.”
Gaye believes Ernie will be there in spirit as she serves as Grand Marshal and her sons, Scott and Jeff, serve as Co-Grand Marshals.
“Very humbled to be grand marshal,” Gilpin said. “Just such a unique way to honor Ernie and his legacy and all his accomplishments and what he gave to the parade.”
One thing is for sure, Ernie will always be Mr. Christmas Parade.
“I’m sure he’s watching it from up there,” Gilpin said. “With a smile on his face.”
The Bend Christmas Parade will begin at noon on December 4th.