Fog dissipated Saturday morning as families lined Ford Avenue, chattering excitedly in the crisp morning air as they awaited the start of the 19th annual Christmas Parade. Others packed into the Way Station Coffee Company to enjoy breakfast and hot coffee before the festivities began.
As the procession started, the sound of children’s laughter mixed with holiday music from marching bands, Christmas carols from parade vehicles, and chants from dancing cheerleaders. From their perch on the back of a pickup, a couple of Boy Scouts shouted, “Jingle Bells! Batman smells! Robin laid an egg!”
Cannons boomed from The Pirates’ House float, and other participants playfully drove dune buggies down the street. Dogs accompanied their owners both on the sidelines — and in the parade — and horses pranced in promenade.
“We get the same spot each year,” retired Air Force Master Sgt. Barbra Baucum said. She and her family moved to the area four years ago and fell in love with the hometown feeling. “Every year, we go to all three — the chili cook-off, the Christmas parade and the lighted boat parade. You have to get here an hour early to get a spot.”
Two years ago, Baucum’s mother, Freda Shorke, played Mrs. Claus on the Senior Center’s parade float.
“Last year, we were ‘Duck Dynasty,’” Shorke said. “We’re not in the parade this year. It’s kind of nice just to watch it.”
This year, Baucum brought her twins to see the parade.
“My favorite part was the pirate float!” 9-year-old Soleil Baucum said. Her brother, William, said Santa was his favorite part of the parade.
By the end of the procession, the children had collected a bag stuffed full of candy.
The parade lineup began at Richmond Hill Elementary School, moved down Maple Street, onto Cherry Street, to Ford Avenue, down Richard Davis Drive, and then wrapped up at J.F. Gregory Park.
“I would like to see it longer next year,” event coordinator Linda Blankenship said. “A few years ago, it used to go through Ball Park Road, and I would love to see it go that way again.”
Blankenship has worked for the city of Richmond Hill for nearly 20 years as an assistant city clerk and city event coordinator.
This year’s parade drew an impressive number of viewers.
“I heard this was the largest crowd we’ve ever had,” Blankenship said. “One of our biggest highlights and thrills was that newly elected Congressman Buddy Carter was in the parade. We also had the grand potentate from the Alee Temple Shriners, Mr. Charles Brewer, in the parade.
“I would like to thank my committee staff that worked hard on planning this. It was a group effort,” she continued. “We had our first meeting in August and we went from there. It still got crazy the last week. A great, big shout-out and thanks to my committee staff — Nacetta Hayes, Michelle Meacham, Trenice Riley, Chief Ralph Catlett, Officer Luke Harris and Ursula Lee; also the park and tree department, police department, EOM (public works and streets), and the fire department; and to the emcees, Laura Anderson and Mike Miller; the parade judges, Julie Dykes, Kelly Taylor and Cindy Catlett; and band judges John Bennett, Bill Haws and Gene Bennett.”
Blankenship said there were over 80 entries of floats and groups walking in the parade this year. Some were last-minute applicants, but Blankenship said no one was turned away.