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Mild temperatures made for a satisfying setting for the annual Christmas parade through downtown in Wilson on Saturday.
A light sprinkling of rain toward the end of the hour-and-a half convoy of 80 entrants didn’t dampen spirits and only a few umbrellas were brought out.
“It’s a fun family time,” said Ellen Poland, of Wilson, who came to the event with her husband, Stuart, and sons Justin and Henry.
Samantha Harrell, of Elm City, brought her daughter Rose to watch.
“She likes it,” Harrell said. “She has been talking about it since she got up this morning.”
For Jimmie Davis, of Black Creek, it meant an opportunity to share time with 1-year-old granddaughter Juliann Holland.
“This is what I have waited all my life for and I’m 67,” Davis said as he cuddled with the child bundled in a toboggan cap. “It’s what we live for.”
Marenda Parker, of Wilson, was in the spirit with a pair of candy canes mounted on her hat.
“I was sick, but I’ve got two grandkids in the parade, so I had to come,” Parker said as she waited to see them on the float from St. Paul Church of Christ in Black Creek.
Saturday’s parade was the kickoff of a whole day of festivities and followed Friday’s traditional lighting of the Christmas tree on the plaza in front of the Wilson County Courthouse.
That event was well-attended too, but Saturday’s parade far exceeded the crowd from the previous night’s gathering.
Susan Kellum, downtown marketing and communications coordinator for the city of Wilson, said a highlight of the parade was the grand marshals, representing the 50th anniversary of the Fike High School Cyclones’ first of three consecutive state football championships.
Head coach Henry Trevathan rode in a place of honor. Among players from the 1967,1968 and 1969 4-A state championship teams in the parade were running back Carlester Crumpler, co-captain Sarvis Bass, defensive end Ronnie Dilda, quarterback Lynn Daniels, defensive lineman David Lanier and running back Phil Lamm.
Kellum said an effort to boost the quality of the parade has paid off.
“Three years ago we incorporated performance stops into the parade along with a theme and float judging in order to improve the quality of the entries in the parade and the response to that has been very exciting,” Kellum said.
This year, bands and other performing groups in the parade paused at the corner of Nash and Tarboro streets in front of a reviewing stand.
“From what I have heard form people this morning, based on the floats they have seen, quality has really improved and we are very excited to see that,” Kellum said.
Kellum said that weather is always the big unknown on any parade day.
“We have been extremely pleased to not only have great weather for the parade today but also for the kickoff to our downtown Christmas holiday weekend beginning last evening with Light Up Wilson,” Kellum said.
The event also gave boosters an opportunity show off downtown Wilson.
“That’s one of the major reasons why we do this,” Kellum said. “The Jaycees ran the parade for many years and when they disbanded five years ago, we saw that as an opportunity to showcase historic downtown Wilson. We are so excited to see the turnout. With the grand opening of the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park two weeks ago, we have definitely seen the impact from that.”