Santa Claus won’t be the only special guest for the upcoming Mount Airy Christmas Parade, which also will feature a Grammy-winning country music/pop legend as grand marshal.
Singer-songwriter Donna Fargo will have that honor when the parade rolls through town in November, it was announced Tuesday during a meeting of the Downtown Business Association (DBA), which sponsors the annual event.
Fargo is a local native known for recording No. 1 hits such as “The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A.”
Though she has long resided in Nashville, Tennessee, Fargo, now 70, has maintained close ties with the place where she grew up, a special relationship that was noted by an official of the Downtown Business Association regarding Fargo’s upcoming appearance here.
“We’re just so excited to have her back in Mount Airy,” said Jennie Lowry, the secretary/treasurer of the organization.
Fargo’s last public appearance in her hometown is believed to have occurred at the city’s Fourth of July parade in 2012.
“I’m just so excited and I realize that it’s not going to come around every year,” Lowry added Wednesday regarding such a visit by the performer who captured America’s hearts through a series of hits in the 1970s.
“She is such a jewel of the community,” Lowry said of Fargo. “She’s such a nice and genuinely honest person, and I’m so glad that she’s coming back for this special day.”
The Mount Airy Christmas Parade is scheduled for Nov. 26, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, beginning at 9 a.m.
Fargo might make other appearances in Mount Airy during her visit, but this has not been finalized. “More details will be coming,” Lowry said.
The air is expected to be filled with Donna Fargo favorites during the parade. “I’m sure we’ll be playing her music,” the Downtown Business Association official said.
Throughout her career and the stardom accompanying it, Fargo has been known for maintaining down-to-Earth, “hometown girl” qualities and songs that connect strongly with the common man.
She grew up along N.C. 103 east of Mount Airy as Yvonne Vaughn. Her father Ray was a tobacco farmer, while her mother Ada worked in a Mount Airy textile mill. Fargo attended Slate Mountain Baptist Church.
In 2009, the N.C. Department of Transportation designated a portion of N.C. 103 (East Pine Street) as Donna Fargo Highway.
After attending High Point College, Fargo migrated west to study at the University of Southern California and became a high school teacher after receiving her degree.
She performed at local venues in California before heading to Phoenix, which coincided with the name change to Donna Fargo and the recording of her first single.
In 1973, Fargo won a Grammy for “The Happiest Girl in the Whole USA.” She also has received awards from the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association.
Fargo, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1978, no longer does live performances.
But Lowry mentioned that a recent project involves a new release of Fargo’s remastered MCA recordings.
“She does a lot of creative writing,” the DBA official said of other activities.
Lowry has a special attachment to Fargo due to her late father, Jimmy, working with the star.
“Dad was her bandleader for over 10 years, and went to Nashville to play in her band along with several other people from Mount Airy, John Rees, Russell Easter Jr., Larry Miller and Steve Jarrell.”
Lowry is elated that Donna Fargo is devoting the time and effort to return to Mount Airy for the Christmas parade.
“It means a lot,” she said. “It’s a really big deal.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.