Even without 76 trombones leading the big parade, the Mount Airy Christmas Parade was a very big event indeed.
Clocking in at 2 hours, 10 minutes, the parade offered everything from marching bands and homecoming queens to clowns and tiny trucks leading up to the grand finale, Santa Claus and his sleigh pulled by reindeer.
The parade included 150 entries, which is on par with past years, according to Jennie Lowry, volunteer for Downtown Business Association, which sponsors the parade. Lowry thought that there might be more people at the parade than normal this year. A half-hour before it started, they were four and five deep at the beginning of the business district, she said.
“The weather is perfect.” It was. Sunny, cool and crisp but not cold.
Officer Carlos Garcia of the Mount Airy Police Department, keeping order at the intersection of Oak and Main, agreed that it was great weather for a parade. And that the crowd might be a little bit larger than average.
The parade was broadcast by WSYD with commentary by Brack Llewellyn and Jennie Lowry broadcasting from the Carlos Jones Blue Ridge Park gazebo.
Jenny Smith, visitor center manager, also live-streamed the parade on the “Visit Mayberry NC” Facebook, positioning her camera near enough to Lowry and Llewellyn that viewers could hear the commentary.
This is the fourth parade the visitor’s center has live-streamed, starting with the July 4th parade this summer, followed by the Mayberry Days and Veteran’s Day parades.
“Each time we’ve learned something,” said Smith. A few of the things she has learned is that she must position her phone where there is perfect reception, and live-streaming for long periods is a real drain on data usage and her battery. Even with a backup battery pack, she got nervous when she had to switch over to it so soon. And it was a very long parade.
Smith was happy with the results, citing 29,900 viewers so far by 11:30 a.m., shortly after the parade ended, with as many as 500 live viewers at one time.
In-person spectators, radio listeners and online viewers were all treated to an astonishing variety of entries, led by a Mount Airy Police Department squad car, followed by Mayor David Rowe in a vintage red hot rod and other city and county officials in convertibles, classic cars and assorted other vehicles.
The two local high schools, North Surry and Mount Airy, sent marching bands and homecoming queens, along with some athletic teams from the high schools and their feeder schools.
Along with the elected officials riding in the parade, there was an even greater array of 2018 candidates vying to become elected officials. There were old cars, tiny trucks, enormous trucks, convertibles, rescue vehicles, lots of fire trucks and a cement mixer.
Veterans groups, scouts, churches, civic groups, businesses — all were represented. Some worked a holiday theme. One featured a backhoe and a bunch of people dressed as poo. Others didn’t bother with a theme or decorations. One or two flatbed trucks were devoid of people as well as decoration, driving through town as if they had somehow gotten into the parade by accident.
Conversely, a few trucks and trailers were filled with waving, smiling people who were completely unidentified.
But every entry, regardless of the complexity, or lack thereof, of their holiday theme, threw candy to the crowd. Quantity and quality varied, but it came from every parade entry. A few upped their game and threw more upscale sweets, like chocolate chip cookies. One entry sporadically threw stuffed animals to the crowd.
As the parade wore on, some people began to be more selective about what candy they picked up, first leaving broken candy canes on the street, and then other less appealing pieces. Before it was over, some spectators began hurling candy back at the people in the parade.
Madeline Caudill divulged her candy strategy as remembering to bring something in which to carry the candy and working both sides of the street. Madeline said, “I only pick up the ones I like.” Her favorite: Laffy Taffy.
More than two hours after the parade began, Santa brought up the rear, riding in his sleigh pulled by eight reindeer. Children clapped with glee and waved frantically at Santa. Bags and pockets full of candy were forgotten for a moment.
“The best part is when Santa comes,” said Kaylee Mullins of Pilot Mountain.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-315-4699.