The Great Lisbon Farmers Feed the Hungry Christmas Parade, which features saddle horses followed by carriage horses and tractors, kicks off on Sat., Dec. 10, at 3:30 p.m.
What started five years ago as a lark for a western Howard County turf farmer as a way to put Lisbon back on the map has quickly become a holiday tradition.
It also brings local equine and agricultural communities together for one the biggest fundraisers to feed the hungry in the state. Since its debut, the parade has raised more than $40,000 for programs to help alleviate want in our community.
A Wild Idea
It was the wild idea of Lambert Cissel’s to found the parade, back in the summer of 2011. “We thought we might get 50 horses to parade down Lisbon’s Main Street [Frederick Road],” said Cissel, who has a passion for riding. He wanted all proceeds from registration fees to be donated to local banks.
“We live in Howard County, one of the most affluent counties in America — yet thousands of children go hungry every day in our county because of the struggling economy,” said Cissel, who was born at the end of the Depression Era and raised on what is now known as Sharp’s at Waterford Farm. “I grew up the son of a farm laborer. We weren’t rich, but we made do with what we had. During tough times, we went without meals to make do.”
With the help of Howard Lasky, owner of the Town Grill, and other locals who formed the parade committee, the parade quickly grew to include more than 500 horses, ponies, mules and riders, plus carriages, stagecoaches and wagons, just in the first year. It grew exponentially for the next few years until 2015, when a different type of “horsepower” was employed; giving the horses a break, the parade committee drew upon the local farming community to showcase a lighted tractor parade and evening Christmas village celebration.
Presented by the Howard County Farm Bureau, the Great Lisbon Farmers Feed the Hungry Parade has grown to include horses and tractors, followed by an evening of festivities. All proceeds go to benefit the Howard County Food Bank (HCFB), Carroll County Food Sunday (CCFS), Farmers and Hunters Feed the Hungry (FHFH) and the Lisbon Volunteer Fire Department (LVFD).
More Than a Parade
For some, the parade is a chance to showcase their horses and tractors; for the spectators, it’s a chance to get out to Howard County’s rural west to watch hundreds of horses and tractors make their way down the historic national road, and to enjoy the evening’s fun-filled festivities.
But for those who often go hungry, it means so much more.
To put this into perspective, in Maryland there are more than 760,000 people reported to be food insecure. Yet, according to the Maryland Food Bank, one in eight Marylanders are food insecure and Marylanders collectively miss more than 134 million meals a year. For Maryland food banks, monetary contributions really matter. For every dollar contributed, three meals can be provided.
Since the inception of the parade, the main benefactors have come to depend on the funds. The proceeds from the 2015 parade were distributed in this past May; both food banks received $2,500, while $1,500 was presented to both LVFD and FHFH.
According to Edward Leister for the CCFS, the Lisbon Christmas Parade donation has consistently been the second largest donation received each year since the parade began.
“The parade has become an integral part of our budget,” said Edward Leister, executive director of CCFS. “The funds raised and donated to CCFS pays for an entire week of serving those who are food insecure.”
In 2015, CCFS served 17,944 families in need composed of 45,431 people who were given 315,257 pounds of food. “Through the parade, awareness has been raised about hunger and it has helped us grow so that we can give those in need nutritious meals,” Leister said.
In Howard County, there are more than 22,000 individuals served each year through the HCFB, as well as 14 emergency food pantries. The Food Bank relies on donations from individuals, groups, community food drives, farms as well as partners with grocery stores and supermarkets to fulfill its mission to provide food for Howard County residents in need. The food bank also works with individuals who have needs during a time of crisis.
Fall of 2019
One such need was brought on by the recent flood that devastated historic Ellicott City and left many residents temporarily homeless. The HCFB provided Ellicott City’s flood victims with non-perishables and essentials.
According to Josh Wilson, executive director for FHFH, Maryland’s farmers and hunters donated 2,646 deer which provided 104,840 pounds of venison, enough for 419,360 servings. The group partners with food banks, food pantries, soup kitchens and feeding ministries to serve the hungry.
“We are very thankful the support given to our cause by the Lisbon Christmas Parade,” said Wilson. “Last year the parade’s contribution helped us pay for the processing and distribution of enough nutritious venison for 3,000 meals. The parade is a fantastic event that helps make a real difference for the people of the community.”
The surrounding community also benefits through the services provided by the LVFC, which is conducting a capital fundraising campaign that will fund construction of a badly needed new facility. The proceeds from the parade, along with other fundraising efforts, help towards the nearly $4 million needed for the project.
“The goal we have set for completion is the fall of 2019,” which will coincide with the fire company’s 75th anniversary, said Carey McIntosh, chief of the LVFC. “Our focus has always been on helping the community, and while we appreciate the donations from the parade, we also feel privileged to be able to help raise funds for the needy in the community in which we live and serve.”
There are several ways to participate in the parade, from entering horses and tractors into the parade to being a vendor at the Christmas Village on the grounds of the future LVFD facility, to funding the parade as a sponsor, hero or helper. As a spectator, you can also contribute to the food drive that will accompany the parade.
To learn more about contributing and what’s planned for this year’s parade, visit www.lisbonchristmasparade.org.
As published by The Business Monthly, October 2016, Page 28.
Author's Note: Since writing and submitting this article to The Business Monthly, I learned from Anne Brinker, Director of Operations at the Community Action Council of Howard County, that in 2015 more than 27,500 people were served over 640,000 pounds of food through the Howard County Food Bank and its emergency pantries.
- Alice Settle-Raskin