This year’s 4-H Pembroke Christmas Parade grand marshals Vergie Barnard and Evelyn Barone can't remember if they were at the first city parade 32 years ago, but the sisters love the way the parade and city have grown since then.
"The parade has gotten so much bigger. It is an honor to be named grand marshal with my sister. It is so humbling. The city is so much prettier, too. It has grown and gotten so picturesque," Barone said.
Barnard and Barone presided over the 32nd annual parade Saturday, which also featured dozens of colorful and noisy floats and was capped by a visit from the jolly, old fat man himself.
The parade has been sponsored by the Bryan County 4-H since its first celebration on 1983. Former state legislator and local television personality Sonny Dixon emceed the parade for the second year in a row. The parade was the centerpiece of a holiday weekend that included a festival of trees, festival of lights and holiday street fare.
Mayor Mary Warnell, who rode in the parade with City Council members, said the Christmas parade is one of her favorite duties as mayor.
"I love seeing the smiling faces on the children. People work so hard putting this together. I love the big turnout," she said.
Melissa Controne and her children — Allison, 5, and Bobby, 3 — were three of hundreds who lined the parade route to kick off the north Bryan holiday season.
"They came to see their daddy, Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Controne, march with the soldiers from Fort Stewart," she said, smiling.
It wasn't long after that the children were yelling and waving as their father marched by.
Taking first-place honors among the parade floats was the Bridge Church. Second place went to Quality Towing, and third place went to Life Moves Dance Studio, which will open a Pembroke studio in January.
Barnard summed up the day and its events perfectly.
"Pembroke is a neighborly and friendly city. People care about each other and rally round when someone needs help. The parade is just another reason Pembroke is a great place to live. I wouldn't live anywhere else," she said.