The first two parades of the holiday season wowed spectators over the weekend, drawing thousands to Robinson Avenue in Grovetown and to Washington Road in Martinez.
An older model Grovetown fire truck blew its horn while parents began to gather their children. Santa had come to town.
Kelly Cheeseborough, trumpet player with the Harlem High School band, performs with bandmates during the Grovetown Christmas Parade Saturday.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
With that, the annual Grovetown Christmas Parade came to an end Saturday, leaving few disappointed.
"It's all about the end of the parade to see Santa Claus," said Juanita Lavery, of Fort Gordon. "That's why everyone sticks around.
Those who stuck around were treated to a variety of floats. The Harlem marching band led the way as antique cars, Scouts and area emergency-response personnel made their way down the road.
Lavery, a mother of two, said the parade was a great way to kick off the holiday season.
"It really gets you in the Christmas spirit," she said.
The parade has been getting Grovetown residents in the Christmas spirit for many years. Lavery has lived in the area for five years and makes it a point to attend each year.
"I've never seen a dull parade in Grovetown," Lavery said. "Everyone shows up."
Public Safety Captain Gary Owens said organizing the parade begins months before the crowd arrives.
It takes a joint effort between public safety and City Hall.
"Every officer is activated," Owens said. "There's no vacation days on that day."
The effort is worth it the moment it begins, Owens said - especially when Santa starts to wave.
"If you look at the people who come, you can see the anticipation on their faces," Owens said.
From floats bearing American flags and holiday cheer came a message of Christmas and patriotism at the Martinez Christmas Parade this year.
Members of the Harlem High School pep squad twirl flags in red, white and blue at the beginning of the Grovetown Christmas Parade.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"Christmas not forgotten," proclaimed a Boy Scout float banner as it moved slowly along the parade's route on Washington Road Sunday.
"Merry Christmas, America!" participants shouted from the back of a truck filled with Old Glories.
"This year, I really like everything being patriotic and stuff," said 12-year-old Kristian Woodward, who attended the parade with grandparents Callie and Deana Hall of Augusta and sister Caitlynn Woodward, 8.
The day's event included 150 floats - 10 more than the previous year. And there were reindeer adorned with American flags, Frosty the Snowman waving an America banner and a firefighter standing on top of a red, white andblue bale of hay.
Following that were several Army armored vehicles, which drew loud cheers and claps from the crowd.
JROTC groups and bands from area schools also marched, surrounded by the sounds of fire-truck sirens and Christmas yuletides.
"It's great," said Monica Paull of Belvedere, who attended the parade for the first time with her daughter Savannah Paull, 2. "It's cool."
The day's weather, however, was warm.
"We sat out here with snow and blankets last year," said Hall. "We brought cold drinks with us this time."
John Goff, who attended the parade for the first time with his 4-year-old son, Trent Goff, said it was just as pleasant as the weather.
"We're having a ball," he said. "It's just so amazing the amount of people out here."
The crowd lining the two-mile stretch from the intersection of Washington and Columbia roads to the Columbia-Richmond county line totaled about 20,000, according to estimates by parade officials.
For Charles Lanier, the parade's chairman, the spectators were the main attraction.
"From the tiniest children to the oldest people, the look in the eyes is what makes all the work worthwhile," he said.
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