I have distinct memories of Christmas parades when I was growing up in Laurens County. Parade units would assemble on Fleming Street and march around the square. We would usually take up our spots on the corner in front of the old Winn Dixie. The smells of cigarette smoke entwined with sugary cotton candy pervaded the air. I remember the vendors – piles of inflatable crap, some related to Christmas, and some not. These came only with the aforementioned cotton candy, as well as other goodies such as candied apples.
So, with these memories, Laura and I headed out to meet Chip and Anna to enjoy watching the Greenville Christmas Parade with their little ones.
Our first stop was at Chip’s office at the Erwin Penland Advertising Agency. They had created a new maker space to built prototypes for some of their displays and interactive content. Chip showed me some of the amazing things they are doing with 360º video with multiple GoPros, 3D printing, and with Oculus Rift and other immersive technologies. It looked like the kind of place I’d love to hang out for weeks on end.
Anna and the kids arrived, and we wandered on down to Main Street, setting up shop right in front of the Peace Center. We were joined by several of Chip and Anna’s friends who also have small kids.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a Greenville Christmas Parade. I remember the parades starting at the other end of town. However, it now looks like they would be starting at County Square and marching the other direction up Main Street. Our position had us toward the beginning of the parade, and not too far from the judging pavilion set up in front of the Poinsett Hotel.
The kids were getting restless, but soon the parade started with a fire engine, and that caught their attention. That was followed by the Furman Paladin Band.
The parade was pretty much as I remembered parades to be. There were lots of community groups, dance troops, boy scout troops, girl scout troops, ROTC troops, and other things that rhyme with and probably fall into the category of “oops.” On the whole, though, that’s one of the things I love about parades. Just about any group can participate.
Of course, there were the bands. Furman’s was the largest, but there were some other impressive contingents out there. Many of the local high school bands participated.
What parade would be complete without floats? These ranged from the elaborate to simple trailers with a bit of decoration. It seemed that the number of floats was small, in comparison with the number of marching groups. I guess it’s easier to put together a group to march than to create an elaborate display. However, some of the floats looked like they were on the verge of being overloaded.
One of the most amazing floats was by the Logos Theater group. They had a large fully animated lion puppet that was…OK, I’m running out of superlative adjectives here. Let’s just say it was really cool.
I spotted this sign on the side of one of the trucks. I guess if you can’t put together a float yourself, help is available.
It was a long parade, but eventually Santa Claus did show up, and the kids, of course got very excited.
By this time the kids were truly worn out, and getting a bit cranky. The parade was lots of fun, made even more so by their presence.
A couple of things were missing, though, and this is probably a good thing. There was no cigarette smell, and there were none of the parade vendors (at least, that I saw.) Cigarette smoking has declined. I don’t know if the vendors are still about, but perhaps participating in smaller town parades. I may have to check out one of those to see.
One last note. One of the Greenville nostalgia groups on Facebook has posted a collection of photographs of the Greenville Christmas Parade from years past. This image is from 1968, as published in the Wade Hampton High School yearbook.
The rest of the photos are well worth checking out.