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Parade launches holiday season for young, old
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Santa Claus ushers in the holiday season in Saturday’s Christmas parade in Martinsville.
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Sunday, November 24, 2013

By LATALA PAYNE - Special to the Bulletin

Spectators filled the streets of uptown Martinsville Saturday evening to get a glimpse of Santa Claus, floats, hot rods, bands and all the trimmings of the annual Martinsville-Henry County Christmas Parade.

Spencer resident Karen Walker attended the parade with her husband Roy and their grandchildren, Noah and Carly. She said it’s been a long-standing tradition in her family to attend the parade, although this year, it’s a bittersweet occasion.

“I’ve been coming to the parade since I was a little girl when my mom and dad would bring me,” she said. “My father passed away in February, so this is the first Christmas parade without him. It’s sad, but we’re happy to be here.”

Walker said her favorite part of the parade when she was little was “seeing Santa Claus, but now, I really enjoy clowns and the horses — our entire family loves animals. I hope our grandchildren can continue coming with us each year.” 

The parade began with the Martinsville High School Marching Band entertaining the crowd with a holiday-themed rendition of “Living on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi. Martinsville resident Tara Becker hadn’t come to the parade since she was a member of the band in 1995.

“I decided to bring the kids and a few of their friends so they could have a good time, but it’s been a while since I’ve been to a parade uptown,” she said. “I still remember being in high school playing the clarinet in the band and marching in the parade. I just wanted the kids to have fun, but being here brings back a lot of memories.”

Gracie Agnew and Trey Harris were grand marshals for this year’s parade. Agnew was named Outstanding Principal of Virginia by the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals, and Harris was named Henry County Teacher of the Year and District IV Teacher of the Year, which was a first for the area.

Agnew, principal of Magna Vista High School, said she was honored to serve as grand marshal.

“I felt very good and proud to be chosen,” she said. “It’s really a tradition to attend this parade. I’ve been here for 30 years, and many of those years I came to parade with my husband who was a Shriner, or I came to see my daughter in the band. We all love watching or being in the parade.” 

Harris, band director at Bassett High School, said he was excited about bring grand marshal, even though after he led the parade, he had to hurry back to march alongside the Bassett band.

“I had a great time riding and waving to everyone in the parade,” he said. “It’s great being able to see former students, former parents and everyone out in the community. This is my 18th year at Bassett, so it’s definitely something I look forward to each year.”

This year’s parade was an overwhelming success, according to Kathy Lawson, vice president of entries for the Martinsville-Henry County Christmas Parade Association. She called it “beautiful.”

“I was very pleased and thankful for the huge crowds we had tonight,” she said. “We had a great crowd considering what it said on the extended forecast. We do our best when it comes to planning and preparation. Our volunteers are great. They make it happen.”

This year’s parade boasted 135 entries that wound through Main and Church streets. Parade Association President Jeanne Lawson said she thinks the great crowds are proof that the community accepts the parade being held before Thanksgiving.

“We like to spend the holidays with our families, and we don’t want to sacrifice those precious shopping days close to Christmas,” she said. “Every year we had it in December, we were dealing with rain or snow. It’s still cold, but it’s supposed to be cold at a Christmas parade.”

Looking to next year, with continued participation from the community and help from volunteers, Jeanne Lawson said she thinks they will have another great parade.


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