Despite temperatures in the 30s and strong gusts from the Northwest making downtown Mount Airy resemble a wind tunnel Saturday morning, crowds weren’t kept away from the city’s Christmas parade.
About 2,500 people lined North Main Street for the annual event, according to estimates from Lt. Kelly Hiatt of the Mount Airy Police Department. Hiatt was among its 160 or so entries, piloting a new rough-terrain vehicle that the department acquired Wednesday through an anonymous donor.
But that was just one of the many attractions for attentive crowds lining the sidewalks, of both young and old.
There were colorfully decorated floats by business, church, school and other groups; the North Surry High School Marching Band and Junior ROTC; classic vehicles and trucks; horses; sports teams; homecoming queens; muscle cars; monster trucks; scout groups; race cars; miniature vehicles manned by Shriners; city officials; farm tractors; the obligatory appearance by Santa; and seemingly every available fire truck and other public safety vehicle in Surry County and southern Virginia.
“It was actually longer this time, you know — a whole lot more stuff,” was the post-parade review offered by Kristy Hawks of Ararat, Va. She attended the one-hour event along with her husband Jamie and their two young sons, Reese and Will.
“I liked it,” Jamie Hawks agreed.
As did other parade-goers, the Hawkses were insulating themselves against the cold and wind with winter coats and headgear, while some of those attending chose to occupy vehicles along the procession’s route or take refuge in doorways of stores.
But the spirit of Christmas seemed to provide a special warmth that served as a magnet for people all around the area.
Nellie Reeves of Pilot Mountain said she attended the parade mainly because of her granddaughter, Kelsie Reeves, 5, who was watching intently from a perch nearby as the first entries made their appearance at the far end of the street.
“She hasn’t talked about nothing but the parade in a week,” added Reeves, who said she has enjoyed it in previous years as well. “And most of the time we shop, too.”
In addition to being able to see Santa, the lure of free candy tossed liberally from those riding in the procession was a highlight for the many children along its route.
Near the end of the parade, Madison Simmons, 7, of Mount Airy, was seen standing proudly beside a huge pile of sweets that she accumulated.
“The kids got more candy today than they did at Halloween,” Kristy Hawks said of her sons Reese and Will.
Aashton Day, 13, of Mount Airy, offered dual reasons for his interest in the Christmas parade while placing a blanket around his baby sister, Aadeler, 2, seated in a stroller.
“Seeing all the floats, and my brother’s in it,” the youth said of one entry in particular. “He’s in a scout troop (No. 538).”
Event Was Bigger
Phil Marsh, president of the Downtown Business Association (DBA) — which sponsored the Christmas parade — said it was larger in several respects than last year’s event.
“I thought the parade was just wonderful,” Marsh said. “It was great — there was a huge turnout.”
And, he continued, “we had more entries this year.”
Marsh believes an earlier date compared to past holiday seasons, when the parade was held in December, and moving it from Sunday to Saturday, were contributing factors.
“People start shopping well before Thanksgiving,” Marsh said in pointing to the boost the parade gives to downtown merchants, especially since it’s now held on Saturday when more stores are open.
The greater number and quality of floats compared to past years also was apparent.
“We’ve got a lot more floats that different businesses sponsor,” Marsh said. “It’s working out better with the float company as far as dates. So that was one big advantage.”
A particular float seemed to get much attention. Sponsored by Pro Health Fitness, it featured a variety of workout equipment that persons on the float demonstrated as it slowly made its way down the street.
Overall, “we were real pleased with the turnout,” the DBA official said on behalf of the downtown community. “Just tickled to death, really.”
Marsh expressed thanks on behalf of the DBA to all those who rode in the parade and the businesses that helped make it possible.
“And we hope everyone comes back next year,” he said.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.