Like the other members of Stoneville’s Christmas Parade committee, Joely Tuggle was still in “recovery mode” on Monday.
“I couldn’t have been more proud of our town and the huge success of our first parade in more than 40 years, but I have to admit to being completely drained by the time it was all over,” Tuggle said. “But at the same time, I can hardly wait to start thinking about next year.”
Tuggle, along with town administrator Shirley Price and parks and recreation director Jackie Blackard, spearheaded Stoneville’s return to the ranks of parade sites this year. Tuggle said she was already “waist-deep” in preparation for the town’s sixth annual Christmas Tree Lighting when Price and Blackard mentioned the idea of bringing back the parade.
“It was already October, so I couldn’t help but be a little skeptical about pulling it off,” Tuggle said. “But I have to admit that I loved the idea and it didn’t take me long to jump onboard.”
Price said the 2.5-mile parade from Stoneville Memorial Park to North Henry Street has been the talk of the town since it ended just after 5 p.m. Saturday.
“Everything I’ve heard has been very positive,” Price said. “Everyone has been saying how much it made them feel like a kid again and two of the most frequent words I’m hearing now are, ‘next year.’”
The streets of downtown Stoneville began filling well ahead of Saturday’s 4 p.m. start time for the parade and parking was at a premium. The route of the parade brought it up N.C. 770 to turn onto South Glenn Street and down to U.S. 220 Business back into town.
While many people waited near the intersection of N.C. 770 and Glenn Street, the intersection of Henry and Main streets a block away grew increasingly congested.
“It’s a bit of a puzzle to figure out the rolling road blocks to keep all the onlookers and parade participants safe, but we’ve got enough people ready to handle it,” Stoneville Police Chief Frank Moore said prior to the parade. “We just have to make sure we get all the through traffic stopped and rerouted in time to keep from having too many problems.”
Down at Stoneville Memorial Park, Blackard was busy trying to wrangle more parade participants than expected. He and the other committee members knew early last week that about 30 people had applied to enter the parade. By lunchtime Saturday, that number had risen to 50.
When time came to launch the police escort and Color Guard from Stoneville Boy Scout Troop 566 to lead the parade, Blackard said he had no idea how many units actually participated.
“I’ll readily admit that I lost count after a while,” Blackard said. “We talked to people about coming over to take part during Friday night’s parade in Eden and I had folks showing up that I had no idea were coming until they arrived. It might have been a touch of organized chaos, but it was great to have that kind of problem.”
As always, old and young alike enjoyed watching the homemade floats, cars, motorcycles and emergency vehicles roll through the streets. It was even more enjoyable when there was plenty of candy being tossed by people riding in the parade.
The town’s annual Christmas Tree Lighting followed closely on the heels of the parade’s ending. But as the sun set, the day’s already chilly air and harsh winds seemed to pick up even more. Tuggle said that was about the only thing she would change for future events if she could.
“I think the cold probably kept some folks from sticking around for the tree lighting ceremony,” Tuggle said. “I know the hot chocolate was really popular and things cleared out quickly after the cheerleaders finished their cheer. Some folks didn’t even stay until the tree lights were turned on. But it was awfully cold.”
Overall, Price thought the first return of the parade in more than four decades came off almost flawlessly, even with falling temperatures and rising wind speeds.
“I couldn’t have been prouder of the way the committee and all of our volunteers pulled together to make this first parade such a success,” Price said. “We’ll meet this week, after we recover, and talk about what worked well and what things might be improved to make next year’s parade even more successful. I know the one thing that everyone agrees on right now is that there will be a next year for the parade and we can hardly wait to start planning it.”