The Mount Airy Christmas Parade is one of the most popular events of the year locally, and even more excitement surrounds its 2016 edition due to the presence of a special guest.
Grammy-winning country music/pop singer Donna Fargo will serve as grand marshal when the parade rolls through town next Saturday. The procession is scheduled to leave from Veterans Memorial Park at 9 a.m. that day and head to the central business district to officially kick off the holiday shopping season here.
The theme for the event is “The Happiest Parade in the Whole U.S.A.” — a reference to Donna Fargo’s signature song, “The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A.,” which she recorded in the 1970s among other hits that made her an international star.
“I think it’s a great parade theme,” said Jennie Lowry of the sponsoring Downtown Business Association, who is a parade organizer.
Fargo is scheduled to ride in the Rolls-Royce convertible of Henry Rowe during the parade.
During the return to her hometown, Fargo also will make several stops in Mount Airy to meet fans, with the exact itinerary to be published later this week.
Throughout her career, Fargo has been known for maintaining down-to-Earth qualities and songs that connect strongly with the common man.
Fargo’s last public appearance in her hometown is believed to have occurred at the city’s Fourth of July parade in 2012.
“She is such a nice person,” Lowry said. “We’re just glad to have her come back.”
The presence of Donna Fargo as grand marshal won’t be the only attraction of the 2016 Mount Airy Christmas Parade, which also will include the usual appearance by Santa Claus.
More than 100 different units usually participate in the holiday event, according to Lowry.
“We’ve extended the deadline for applications through Tuesday,” she said of entries for next weekend’s parade.
Local high school marching bands, cheerleader groups, scouts, public safety vehicles, classic cars and various costumed characters — including those from the Disney movie “Frozen — are expected to inhabit downtown Mount Airy as part of the procession.
It also will include a number of colorful floats sponsored by businesses, school groups and churches.
Parade entry forms can be obtained at the Mount Airy Visitors Center and online at www.mountairydowntown.org. Other information about the event is available from the visitors center at (336) 786-6116.
“We’ll have a lot of out-of-town guests who come for the parade,” Lowry said.
After riding in the procession, Santa will hang around for a bit. He will make himself available for children to meet at the gazebo of Carlos Jones Blue Ridge Park at the corner of North Main and West Oak streets downtown.
The group known as MAUI (Mount Airy Ukulele Invasion) will provide entertainment at the gazebo until Santa arrives.
Small Business Saturday
“A big thing about the parade is it is also on Small Business Saturday,” Lowry said.
Small Business Saturday is a nationally observed counterpart to Black Friday, the big shopping period after Thanksgiving which is slanted toward big-box retail stores. As its name implies, Small Business Saturday encourages support for mom-and-pop stores that have long been a big part of America’s commercial landscape.
More than 60 small businesses are located downtown, where store interiors and windows will be decorated for Christmas to enhance the festive atmosphere.
“We hope those who come to the parade will stick around and shop,” Lowry said. “It’s usually a big day for downtown Mount Airy.”
The Mount Airy Christmas Parade serves as a kind of homecoming for present and former residents of the area, Lowry said.
“We’re so glad to be able to have great activities for Saturday that everybody can enjoy,” she said on behalf of the Downtown Business Association.
Dobson, Pilot parades
Those who also are looking forward to the Christmas parades in Dobson and Pilot Mountain will have to wait a week longer for those events.
The annual Dobson Christmas Parade is scheduled for Dec. 3 at 2 p.m. The parade occurs on Main Street between Surry Community College and Dobson Town Hall.
Pilot Mountain’s Christmas parade is scheduled the same day, but is an evening event to begin at 6 p.m.
Its route includes Main Street through the downtown area.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.