BLADENBORO — Even though the rain that started early Saturday morning may have been the cause for what could have been a record low attendance at the 44th annual Bladenboro Christmas Parade, the dreary day wasn’t enough to keep 3-year-old Madilynn and 2-year-old Farrah Hester from experiencing the magic of their first parade.
“We usually watch the parade from (the other end), but we came down here this year so we could stand under the store awnings,” said grandmother Patricia Hester, who brought the youngsters to the downtown section Saturday morning.
The three were bundled up on a bench on Main Street, grandmother with an arm around each of the girls and talking excitedly to the parade newbies as they waited for its onset.
At approximately 10:45 a.m., Madilynn’s eyebrows shot up, her eyes the size of saucers. A sharp intake of breath was heard before she broke out into a wide grin and squealed as the sound of fire sirens could be faintly heard. She jumped to the sidewalk looking both ways down the street. Hopping up and down and clapping her hands as the fire sirens got louder, she alternated looking at the street for her first sight of the parade and at her grandmother to see if the matriarch was as excited as Madilynn felt.
As the fire trucks, sirens blaring, rounded the corner, the girls couldn’t decide whether to cover their ears over the sound reverberating around the buildings on the narrow street or to clap their hands in glee.
Neither Madilynn nor Farrah seemed to mind the steady rain as parade participants — elected officials, drill teams, clowns, and businesses and civic groups, to name a few — threw candy along the parade route. The girls and their caretakers, along with everyone else on the street, scooped up any Tootsie Rolls, peppermint candies, candy canes, lollipops, fruit candy, and even some candy bars that didn’t land in the stream of water making its way down the street’s gutters.
About halfway through the parade, the rain began to abate, and two guests decided to make lemonade out of lemons. The duo — a couple of friends — took the gadgets they had just been using to divert the showers falling from the sky, and turned them upside down to collect the steady stream of candy raining down from the parade.
“Little cars!” squealed Madilynn, putting her hands over her mouth as the Shriners made figure eights at the intersection of Main Street and Seaboard in their miniature 18-wheelers and sports cars.
The rain clearly kept some people away, as several of the floats, save for the drivers in the vehicles pulling them, were completely empty. Bleachers erected for the parade sat unused.
For those who came, however, especially two little girls who saw their first parade, the weather didn’t do anything to dampen spirits. As Santa and Mrs. Claus in their sleigh made their way down the route, every child on the street stepped out to wave at the Christmas icons.
“Ho! Ho!” exclaimed Farrah.
As the last vestiges of the couple faded away, all that was left of the parade was the drenched candy in the streets.
“The candy (was my favorite)!” said Madilynn, who, if her excitement was any indication, will be back next year.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.