ROWLAND — Hundreds of Rowland residents gathered Saturday to ring in the holiday season at the town’s annual Christmas Parade and Festival.
Those lining the town’s streets waited eagerly for fire trucks that were blasting their sirens well before they came into view. The sun shined down on festive floats and waving beauty queens as the parade made its way from Rowland Middle School on Hines Street to U.S. 301.
The parade, organized and hosted by the town’s Celebration Committee, had about 60 entries, including floats from churches and businesses, antique cars, the Sudan Tomcat Shriners, beauty kings and queens and high school marching bands. This year’s parade had two grand marshals, Robeson County Commissioner Hubert Sealey and state Rep. Garland Pierce. And of course, the main attraction, Santa, came riding in on an antique fire truck.
Martha Walters, a lifetime Rowland resident, was among those waiting to catch a glimpse of “creative” floats as they passed by. Walters said she missed last year’s parade and was doubly excited to see it this year.
“I enjoy the whole thing,” she said. “It’s during the holiday season, and that togetherness feels good, and you get to see old friends.
“And it brings out the children in us, too. I’ve still got a lot of child in me.”
Walters watched the parade with her husband, Harold, and her grandson Daniel Strickland, 13. She pointed out two more of her grandsons — Joshua, 21, and Jacob, 10 — as they rode by in a town fire truck.
Harold Walters pointed out that this year’s parade lineup seemed a little thin.
“It was good,” he said, “but it didn’t have as much stuff as it usually has.”
Emma Burns, one of the parade’s organizers, said those who wanted to be in the parade did not have to preregister, and turnout was lighter than expected.
“We had people promise to come that didn’t show up,” Burns said. “But we just went ahead.”
After Santa made his ride down U.S. 301, he set up shop in front of the Historic Depot on Railroad Street for the second part of the day’s festivities — the Christmas Festival. One by one, children lined up for a chance to sit on Santa’s lap and bend his ear with Christmas wishes.
Older family members were treated with entertainment from several music and dance teams, including Southern Exposure, Beauty Spot Praise Team, the Benson Chapel Praise Team and the Annease Drive Praise and Worship Kids. Festival attendees snacked on turkey legs, funnel cakes, hot dogs and hamburgers, and waited as trophies were awarded to the best parade entries in several categories.
“I think it was a wonderful parade, and the weather was great,” Burns said. “It’s a lot of hard work, but all in all, when you see it turn out as well as it did today, it’s all worth it.”
Next up is Fairmont, which will hold its Christmas Parade at 6 p.m. Friday, and Marietta, which will hold its White House Volunteer Fire Department/Marietta Christmas Parade at 11 a.m. Saturday.