This year’s Christmas parade in Bend was bittersweet for Gaye Gilpin.

For about 30 years, the city’s Christmas parade was the pride and joy of her late husband, Ernie Gilpin. But after his passing late last year, the parade Saturday was the first one without her husband of more than 50 years at the helm.

But Gaye Gilpin has a feeling he’ll be there — in spirit, anyway.

“He’s going to be watching, that’s for sure,” she said. “I hope we do a good job representing his legacy. He sure deserved it.”

After being canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19, the Christmas parade is back.

At 58 degrees Saturday, the day felt more like spring than Christmas — it was by far the nicest weather the Christmas parade has ever had, according to Gilpin.

About 85 floats adorned with Christmas trees, tinsel and other wintery décor cruised down Riverside Boulevard and Wall Street.

Hundreds of onlookers dressed in Santa hats, sparkly reindeer antlers and all things red and green cheered them as they passed.

Michael Sipe, who is the new chairman of the event, said the goal this year was to honor Ernie Gilpin’s legacy. Organizers wanted to keep every aspect of the parade the same way Gilpin did it in the 27 years he oversaw the event.

“It’s been a fascinating and wonderful experience to hear all the wonderful comments about Ernie and his gift to the city, and how important it’s been to the community over the past 30 years,” Sipe said.

This year will not only be Sipe’s first year running the parade, but also the first year he will see it for himself. Sipe said he got involved after a friend of a friend called him and asked if he would coordinate the parade this year after Ernie Giplin’s passing.

Sipe has experience running other events, like The Great Drake Park Duck Race, through his involvement with Bend Rotary Club, he said.

When Sipe asked his wife, who had attended over the years with their children, whether he should do it, she responded overwhelmingly: Of course!

“I think this is the most loved event in Bend,” he said.

Gaye Gilpin, 75, isn’t sure exactly where her husband’s love for Christmas began, but she does know it was a lifelong passion. When he proposed to her more than 50 years ago, he used notes on a rotating tinsel tree that spelled out “Will you marry me?”

For years, Christmas meant holding elaborate parties for the neighborhood children, and putting up so many lights that his own son joked the driveway was illuminated enough to be an airplane landing strip.

“He just had that fun-loving desire to celebrate Christmas more so than maybe a lot of people would do,” she said.

Ernie Gilpin died two days before Christmas during the one year the parade had to be canceled — the irony of the timing, his wife said, was not lost on her.

To honor his legacy, Gaye Gilpin and her two children decided to accept the offer to be the parade’s grand marshals as a way to honor her husband’s legacy and commitment to Christmas and the community in general.

“I’m glad to have this chance to do this for my late husband,” she said. “It’s not very often you get to do that.”

Sign up for our Daily Headlines newsletter

Reporter: 541-633-2160,

(1) comment

Agent zero

Kate brown and the Oregon health authority announced they will be making indoor mask requirements permanent..

Kate brown once again proves why she was voted the worst governor in the United States.. the democrat party is an abomination

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.