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Rock 'n' Roll Christmas
Music sets the tempo for parade, yule season
Santa Claus ushers in the holiday season in Martinsville and Henry County at the annual Christmas parade Saturday night in uptown. Floats, bands and other units were featured in the entourage. (Bulletin photos by Mike Wray)
Some spectators at the annual Martinsville Henry County Christmas Parade on Saturday got something they never anticipated from the experience — a gift from people on a passing float.
It wasn’t candy that GSI Commerce employees tossed into the crowd. Rather, it was Bobblehead dolls wrapped in boxes.
Barbara Dove and Carol Evans, both of Martinsville, were among those who caught a box.
“It was a surprise,” Dove said after opening hers.
A former GSI employee, Evans said she was glad to see local companies participating in the parade, considering local economic troubles in recent years.
She said she hopes “we can just keep the businesses here” providing jobs for people.
About 130 entries — including homemade floats designed by churches and community organizations, as well as school bands, antique vehicles and more — made their way through the streets of uptown Martinsville.
The parade’s theme was “A Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas.”
Grand marshals were musicians from The Rogues and The Generals, two popular local bands from the 1960s.
A jukebox played 1950s-style Christmas music on First United Methodist Church’s float, which was decorated to resemble an old-fashioned diner from that era. Girls on the float wore poodle skirts.
The float’s theme was “Our King Rocks,” a reference to Jesus, not Elvis.
Landmark Church’s float featured a cross and kids dressed as angels and in biblical-era attire, helping spectators remember the reason for the Christmas season.
Elvis actually came along a few minutes later on the back of a horse. He later made a second appearance, picking his guitar as he rode on a truck.
Tania Quinn of Bassett said she liked him and others on that entry.
“They were jamming” to the music, she said.
As always, Santa Claus and his reindeer ended the parade, riding a float sponsored by the city of Martinsville.
Jeanne Lawson, president of the Christmas Parade Association, estimated attendance at the parade at 6,000. She said the crowd seemed to be about 10 percent larger than last year’s parade crowd.
Several years ago, the parade association started holding the event in November instead of December to take advantage of warmer weather.
When parades were held in December, Lawson recalled, it was “way too cold” and often it was snowing.
Saturday’s sky was generally clear at sunset as the parade progressed, but there was a chill in the air and many spectators wore heavy coats and caps.
Some, like Paul Wood and his girlfriend, Leah Turton, both of Martinsville, wrapped themselves in blankets.
They said they came to the parade because it sounded like it would be fun.
It also “pulls everybody (in the community) together, at least for one day,” Wood said.
Kim Williams of Bassett said she was making her second visit to the parade as an adult.
Generally, “the cold at night is too much for me,” said Williams, who also brought a blanket. She said she came this year because her son wanted to go, and she brought him.
Soon after getting to the parade, she said she did not know what to expect but “I’m sure it will be worth it.” Afterward, she said “it was great,” and she especially enjoyed the bands.
It was “an excellent parade,” Lawson said. She mentioned that parade-goers and others were “very considerate” this year, such as by not driving too fast along streets where entries lined up beforehand.
“We look forward to next year,” she added.