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Richmond Hill rings in holiday

Organizers of the annual Richmond Hill Christmas festivitie are calling the event a booming success.

"Everything went smoothly and each event was well-attended," said committee member Jan Bass.

The fun started on a chilly Friday night as hundreds of residents flocked to the pavilion at J.F. Gregory Park to perhaps warm up with the many samples available during the seventh annual chili cook-off and crafts fair.

Judging the event were RHHS football coach Brian Brocato, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s owner Doug Goolsby and What’s the Scoop owner Jennifer Foley. The trio tasted spoonfuls from the 20 participating entries before deeming Richmond Hill resident and local soldier Michael Isaza’s self-titled ‘redneck caviar’ chili as the grand champion. Honorable mentions went to first runner-up John Bennett, who used his patented Notch 8 Barbecue Sauce as an ingredient, second runners-up Robert Conner and BCSO Sgt. John Peny and third runners-up Danny Coultier and the gang from Molly McPherson’s.

Hundreds of families lined the streets of Richmond Hill on Saturday morning for the city’s 13th Annual Hometown Christmas Parade. Floats representing area businesses, marching bands and numerous civic organizations strolled through town, many depicting the military theme of "Home for the Holidays". Leading the way were Grand Marshal Tommy Darieng, city officials, public safety personnel and soldiers from Fort Stewart.

"The military really did a fantastic job of leading the parade down Ford Avenue," Bass said. "Kudos to Major General Cucolo and all the troops. We also had more participating high school marching bands than ever before, which really enhanced this year’s event."

Co-chairman Nancy Frye said the committee passed out over a thousand flags to help celebrate the theme.

"The crowd really got into the spirit of Christmas and just how much our military families mean to all of us," Frye said. "I know those of us up on the deck at City Hall teared up with pride when they passed by us. We all just have so much to be thankful for, and I feel the crowd showed this by standing and applauding when the troops passed by. The parade committee wanted all our military, past, present and future, to realize just how proud we are of all of them, and I think it showed."

Parade judges Donna Reed, Dana Brown, Eddie Warren and Tommy Darieng decided the following awards:

- Commercial business float: 1. McDonald’s, 2. Heritage Bank, 3. Bryan County News, 4. Life Moves Dance Studio.

- Best in show: McDonald’s.

- Best use of theme: Cub Scout Pack 527.

- Performing groups: 1. ATA Martial Arts, 2. South Georgia Olympic Karate, 3. RHHS cheerleaders.

- Youth groups: 1. Cub Scout Pack 400, 2. Boy and Cub Scouts Pack 486, 3. Cub Scout Pack 527.

- Marching Bands: 1. Bradwell Institute, 2. Johnson High, 3. Calvary Day.

Mayor Richard Davis granted the Mayor’s Award to the Heritage Bank.

For the fourth year in a row, the action spilled over to the Station Xchange after the parade for their Christmas Xtravaganza event, which featured the popular ‘winter wonderland’ event with a snowy play area made from chipped ice, crafts, a bouncy playground and live music from Richmond Hill rock band NorthBound.

After dark, the yuletide focus shifted to the Fort McAllister Marina for the Offshore Outlaws’ third annual Christmas on the Ogeechee. Participating boats illuminated the waterfront with elaborate light décor. Cars lined up all down the causeway as people watched from their vehicles and from the dock as the eleven participants rolled down the Ogeechee and lit up the night. A fireworks display signaled the end of the parade.

Judges Glen Willard, Jan Bass, Chris Darieng and Dallas Daniel collectively decided on the best displays, each receiving $100. Taking top honors for best overall, for the second year in a row, was Capt. Mark Gerrald and his boat "Chill Factor". Best presentation went to Capt. Russ Carpenter’s "Blue Christmas" display, complete with a blue Elvis on deck. Best decorative went to Capt. Billy Meadows’ huge "Had a Dream" display. Finally, most holiday spirit went to Capt. John Seckinger and his boat "Salt Cured."

Seckinger said the event was just as fun for the participants as it was for the onlookers.

"As we rolled down the river, we saw many places that had a river view having parties in conjunction with the parade," he said. "Everyone was shouting encouragement along the way. You couldn’t help but get caught up in the excitement."

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