One sure-fire way of knowing the holiday season is here is the coming of the Mount Airy Christmas Parade, which will make its annual trip through town this Saturday.
Thousands are expected to line the streets, based on the reported attendance at the parade in 2016. It is scheduled to begin Saturday at 9 a.m. and proceed down North Main Street, where shops will be celebrating Small Business Saturday as part of the festivities.
In addition to spectators, participation is anticipated to be high this year by local entities with floats at the event, according to parade spokesperson Jennie Lowry of the Downtown Business Association. With entries having to be submitted by today, Lowry added that a “large number” of clubs, school groups, churches and businesses already had completed applications.
The units collectively will feature all the sights and sounds of the season in the quaint downtown setting that organizers say has proven to be a winning combination. The parade has become a favorite holiday tradition for both local residents and visitors who consider it the official kickoff of the Christmas season, they say.
An array of colorful characters, marching band performances, appearances by local dignitaries, pageant winners, unique vehicles and other attractions are typically part of the procession, and Santa Claus also will be paying his usual visit from the North Pole.
In 2016, more than 100 businesses, civic groups and non-profit organizations officially registered for the parade. This did not include an ample array of fire trucks and other first-responder vehicles.
The parade usually lasts around 90 minutes. The weather is expected to be cooperative by late-November standards with cloudy and cool conditions but no rain in the forecast, as of Tuesday.
“A Season of Giving” is the parade theme this year.
Teachers grand marshals
The presence of a grand marshal is always a special part of the Mount Airy Christmas Parade, and for 2017 more than 10 of them will be on hand.
They include Surry County Schools’ teachers of the year of the past and present, who were selected as honorary grand marshals to ride on a special float. “It is a beautiful blue and white and gold float,” county schools spokeswoman Sonia Dickerson said Tuesday.
“We have teachers who will be from 1975 up to the current 2018 Teacher of the Year,” Dickerson added. “We have 13 who have said for sure they will be on the float — I could have up to 15.”
They will include Linda Brown, the 1975 Teacher of the Year who taught English at Surry Central High School, and the most-recent recipient of that honor, Phillip Riekehoff of Flat Rock Elementary.
“Each will have a sash with Surry County Schools’ Teacher of the Year and the year,” Dickerson said of how the various annual recipients will be identified. “They’re excited to be the grand marshals.”
The teachers’ float is sponsored by Perkins & Associates Insurance Specialists, Horace Mann Insurance and Laura Hardy Creative.
Small Business Saturday
The fact the Mount Airy Christmas Parade is being held on Small Business Saturday is no coincidence, according to Lowry of the Downtown Business Association.
It is a national campaign to promote the country’s small businesses, which Lowry says provides a perfect time to visit Downtown Mount Airy and support local merchants.
The Downtown Business Association, Mount Airy Downtown Inc., the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce, Mount Airy Visitors Center and the Surry County Economic Development Partnership are participating in this year’s campaign.
Those organizations are part of more than 6,700 “Neighborhood Champions” nationwide urging consumers to patronize small enterprises.
In 2016, more than 112 million people across the U.S. came out to shop on Small Business Saturday, based on information provided by Lowry.
“We are hoping that a portion of that number decides to shop in downtown Mount Airy this year, as well as throughout this Christmas season and all through the year for that matter,” said Lowry, herself a local business owner.
“We have over 75 unique businesses and attractions downtown — a huge number for a town of our size,” she said. “Really you can find just about anything downtown.”
Lowry pointed out that when consumers shop locally, “your money is cycled back through the local economy, and that’s really important. The parade is going to be a great way to kick off Small Business Saturday.”
Music, Santa at park
In conjunction with the parade, entertainment will be provided at Carlos Jones Blue Ridge Park immediately after the procession rolls through.
Members of a group known as the Mount Airy Ukulele Invasion (MAUI) plan to perform songs of the season ahead of an appearance by Santa Claus at that location.
Santa will greet children and hear their Christmas wishes.
Carlos Jones Blue Ridge Park is on the corner of North Main and West Oak streets.
Plans call for local AM radio station WSYD to provide live coverage of the Christmas parade and for it to stream live on the Visit Mayberry NC Facebook page.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.