An estimated 6,000 to 7,000 people of all ages lined the streets Saturday morning for the annual Mount Airy Christmas Parade that provided a kickoff to the season in both a big and spectacular way.
After waiting patiently like children eager to see their presents under the tree, the crowd was greeted to a procession running more than one hour. It featured Santa Claus, an array of stunning floats, marching bands, Christmastime characters such as the Grinch and even a cow that was led through the central business district.
Mother Nature did its part, too, with sunny skies and dry conditions, even though temperatures lingered in the 30s as the event began.
Longtime parade-goers say all those factors combined to make attendance much higher this year than before.
The crowd estimate of 6,000 to 7,000 was provided by Officer Kelly Hiatt of the Mount Airy Police Department. He rode the entire parade route in the department’s rough-terrain vehicle and noted heavier throngs of people along the way compared to previous years.
“The weather was a lot better — it was freezing last year,” Hiatt said of the 2012 parade.
Local couple Scott and Deena Day are longtime parade fans who have attended it regularly for about 10 years after relocating here from High Point.
“Our son’s with Troop 538,” Scott Day said of the parade appearance by that Boy Scout group which was one of their motivations Saturday. But there was another reason to attend besides the pageantry of the event.
“To be honest, it’s the candy,” Day admitted as daughters Aadisyn, 10, and Aadler, 8 — just two of the couple’s eight children — anxiously awaited the chance to grab some goodies hurled from people riding in the procession.
The father said the girls were excited about the parade, so “we can go get some more candy.”
The Days and others with a similar mindset weren’t disappointed. While the parade entries represented a wide variety, one common denominator was the fact that nearly all tossed out candy along the route, which was scooped up by kids masquerading as small vacuum cleaners.
“This is better than Halloween,” Brandy Pack of Mount Airy, there with her husband and children, was heard to say while the parade was in full swing.
Parade-goers of every generation seemed to enjoy the event. “I come to all of them,” said Bruce Utt of Ararat, Va., who gave his age as “39,” but appeared to be a little older. The floats are what Utt said he enjoys most.
In addition to sponsored floats highlighting local businesses, civic organizations and church groups, the parade featured the North Surry and Mount Airy high school marching bands; homecoming queens and elected officials perched atop convertibles; sports teams; about 35 trucks from fire departments in the area, some of the vintage variety.
Also, there were rescue vehicles; floats highlighting military organizations; colorfully decorated tractor-trailers; muscle cars and antique vehicles; small cars from the Shriners; wreck trucks; riding mowers and similar equipment; and even a motorized port-a-john.
At least two clowns were spotted, along with the Grinch and other costumed characters. The cow that was in the parade, trailing a float of Chick-fil-A, bore a message telling onlookers that cattle are their friends and shouldn’t be eaten. A small goat was part of the event as well.
Leading the procession were vehicles from the Mount Airy Police Department and Surry County Sheriff’s Office, the city one operated by Police Chief Dale Watson. Meanwhile, Sheriff Graham Atkinson walked the route, flinging out candy from a small wagon being towed along the way.
Officials of the Downtown Business Association (DBA), the parade’s sponsor, were pleased with Saturday’s event.
“I think it was a great turnout for the parade and great participation in the parade,” said Jennie Lowry, who serves on an event committee for the DBA.
”It was a beautiful day in Mount Airy, to see the streets filled with people of all ages,” Lowry added.
Along with local-area residents of North Carolina and Virginia, Lowry said she was impressed by a hefty out-of-town turnout. This included a couple she talked to from High Point who attend the Mount Airy Christmas Parade every year, while forsaking that of their own city.
“It was just a great parade,” Lowry summed-up.
“‘Thank you’ to all of the people that took the time to participate in the parade and all the people who came downtown to be part of it.”
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.