3 towns spread joy of the season

First Posted: 1/15/2009

Three county towns put on their best faces and donned their seasonal finery in order to spread some holiday cheer this weekend.
Fairmont, Marietta and St. Pauls staged Christmas parades Friday and Saturday. For Fairmont it was the first such holiday celebration in 30 years.
The Christmas spirit was alive and well Friday in this community after such a long Christmas parade drought. Making the return of such an event even more special was the fact that Friday’s was a twilight parade, a first in Fairmont.
A crowd of about 1,000 spectators lined Main Street as the 34-unit parade that included floats, marching bands, festival queens, Shriners, fire and rescue vehicles, and, of course, Santa made its way through downtown to Community Park where a tree-lighting ceremony was held.
Mason Floyd, 3, couldn’t get enough of the parade. He enjoyed watching it with his mother Julie Floyd, 17-month-old brother Lance Floyd, and grandfather Jimmy Evans.
“I liked the fire trucks and race cars,” Mason said.
As the crowd gathered around the community Christmas tree for the traditional tree-lighting, the “Christmas Story” was read and Lumberton resident Lauren Miller sang “O Holy Night.”
“This (tree lighting) has been a time-honored tradition here for years,” Mayor Charles Kemp told the crowd. “It’s a unifying symbol that brings us together as a community.
“You have been a part of this first Christmas parade,” the mayor added. “We will continue this festival — what we are calling ‘Holiday on Main’ — each year. It will be bigger and better next year.”
After the tree-lighting ceremony, the celebration continued at the Fairmont-South Robeson Heritage Center. Musical entertainment was provided by several soloists and choirs. And Santa made an appearance.
Kemp welcomed the standing-room crowd that filled the center.
“Look around you,” he said. “This is what community is all about.”
Bright sunny skies and mild temperatures greeted spectators Saturday during the town’s 22nd annual White House Volunteer Fire Department/Christmas Parade.
An estimated 2,000 people lined Marietta Road, clapping, cheering and waving for more than 90 minutes while cars, trucks, floats, horses and more than 50 tractors made their way to the center of town.
“I’ve never missed a parade in 22 years,” Kendall Stephens said while holding her 19-month-old daughter Blaire and keeping a close eye on her six-year-old son Blayke. “It just gets better and better every year.”
Stephens then proudly revealed that her father, John Bare, was the parade organizer.
The spectacle stretched for more than a mile with a variety of units from as far away as Myrtle Beach, Florence and Whiteville.
The Omar Imps, a Shriner unit from Florence, dazzled the crowd with an oversized, souped up roadster that rose up onto its back tires, spun in circles, and backfired with blasts that had the kids laughing and the grownups covering their ears.
Clowns also circulated among the crowd. They goosed unsuspecting spectators from behind and placed candy and beads in eager, outstretched hands.
The parade ended with Santa and a collection of riders on horseback wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.
St. Pauls
By mid-afternoon Saturday, clouds darkened the skies, but spirits stayed bright for the town’s 51st annual Christmas Parade.
About 1,500 people lined both sides of Broad Street as marching bands high-stepped, Shriner groups, floats and tractors rolled, and horses trotted their way past cheering onlookers.
Ann Penaloza brought her 18-month-old daughter Abigail and 3 1/2-year-old daughter Hannah from Parkton for the event.
“I come every year for the kids to enjoy,” Ann said as Hannah stooped down to pick up candy tossed from a fire truck. “I like everything about it.”
Children squealed with delight as the Sudan Tomcats from Lumberton zoomed around in circles in their tiny sports cars. They then laughed and pointed at a tiny wagon drawn by a knee-high miniature Shetland pony that let loose a high-pitched whinny.
The parade broke tradition by featuring Santa in the middle of the pack. The St. Pauls High School marching band wound things up with its version of a Christmas favorite, “Jingle Bell Rock.”

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