06/19/06 — OPINION - Parkstown Parade revived

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OPINION - Parkstown Parade revived

By Gene Price
Published in News on June 19, 2006 1:46 PM

A revival is planned for what once was regarded as the biggest little Christmas parade in the country.

For almost two decades, beginning in the early 1950s, the crossroads community of Parkstown held Christmas parades that attracted spectacular participation and widespread attention.

Parkstown is a cluster of modest homes around the intersection of LaGrange and Parkstown roads in the rural area near the Wayne-Greene County line.

What the community lacked in material and economic wealth, it made up for in pride and spirit.

The Better Young Men and Women Club -- headed by Samuel Jackson -- initiated the parade to focus on the pride residents had in their community and themselves.

From the outset, the Parkstown Christmas parade attracted broad media coverage. This was in part attributed to the fact that for the first mile of the parade route, the only spectators were assorted hogs, cows and horses attracted to the farm fences along the roadsides.

It usually took a mile for the parade to "form up."

The spirited little community managed to attract bands -- as many as eight, fire engines, marching units, floats, colorfully decorated bicycles and farm tractors from a wide area.

While Parkstown is a largely black community, parade planners made certain no youngsters were disappointed: It featured two Santa's -- one black and one white!

The mark of success of each parade was the number of strands of Christmas lights erected across the parade route.

Men of the community would chop, trim and erect appropriate trees as "light poles."

"During the last parade, we had 18 strands of lights," recalled Sam Jackson recently.

This year's parade is being chaired by Parkstown native James W. Bowden, now living in Raleigh. He was Goldsboro's first human relations director and went on to serve in that capacity in Charlotte. He then was chosen by then Gov. Jim Hunt to be state Human Relations director and also held that post under Gov. Jim Martin.

Bowden subsequently retired as Deputy Secretary of the Department of Juvenile Justice.

He said arrangements have been made through the Department of Transportation to hold the parade on Thursday, Dec. 14.

He's looking for a big turnout of participants and spectators. Churches throughout the area are invited to enter floats and youth marching units such as Scout troops. Those interested are asked to contact Shirley Perry at 778-0958.

Mark your calendar and treat yourself to an inspiring event!