LUMBERTON — Hundreds of people gathered along Elm Street on Saturday to watch as Christmas came to town with the annual Lumberton Christmas Parade.
Moms, dads and their children huddled together with blankets and their winter coats, as the early morning was colder than forecast, but the sun came out as the parade began to warm them with the Christmas spirit.
The parade is a part of a longstanding tradition for many people who stake out the same spots year after year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
“Everyone seems to have their same spot every year,” Kim Watts said. “We come early so we can get our spot.”
Watts, who brought her children, Ashton Watts, Ryan Pittman and Haley Pittman, said the parade is part of their Christmas tradition.
“I’ve watched the parade since I was real little and I’d come with my mom,” she said. “And now I’m a mom. We’re always excited about the Christmas parade.”
This year’s parade included about 150 entries that traveled 20 blocks from the Robeson County Museum up Elm Street to Biggs Park Mall.
U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre, this year’s grand marshal, kicked off the parade as he walked down the street greeting all of the eager paradegoers with a “Merry Christmas, everyone.” McIntyre was accompanied by Robeson County Sheriff Kenneth Sealey, Lumberton police Chief Mike McNeill, Lumberton City Council members and Mayor Raymond Pennington.
Jan Edwards, who has been attending the parade for more than 30 years, said she wouldn’t miss it.
“If it was raining or sleeting, I’d be here,” she said. “I love it. And this year my granddaughter is in it.”
Two-year-old Emersyn Norton earned her ride in the parade as Ms. Toddler of Robeson County.
There was plenty of excitement to keep the children from getting restless during their nearly two-hour wait for Santa.
The Sudan Tomcats zoomed by in their go-carts, slowing down to hand out bracelets to the excited children. Christmas carolers and marching bands from Lumberton, South Robeson, Red Springs, Fairmont and St. Pauls high schools filled the streets with the sounds of Christmas.
Amy Clewis, a teacher at Rowland-Norment Elementary School, said the parade provides a good place to reunite with old friends.
“I really enjoy the music,” she said. “And I always enjoy coming to see the familiar faces. It’s a good kick-start for the holidays.”
Cherie Gerald was accompanied by her 4-year-old son Sebastian Cole.
“Listening to the music and being out here with friends,” she said, “it reminds you that Christmas is coming and it really gets you in the spirit.”
Sebastian was eagerly awaiting Santa’s float as the parade neared its end.
“My favorite part is Santa!” he said.
Children called out as Santa, sitting on his sleigh, made his way down the street. Many of the children simply pointed and yelled out “Santa!”
It was a leisurely ride for the jolly old elf, who will get busy in about five weeks.
“I hope everyone’s been real good,” he said.
The Lumberton parade is always at the head of the local line of Christmas festivities.
Next up is Rowland, which will hold its Christmas Parade and Festival at 10 a.m. Saturday, and Fairmont, which follows on Nov. 30.