12/05/10 — Very merry Christmas parades

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Very merry Christmas parades

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 5, 2010 1:50 AM

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None other than the Jolly Old Elf himself showed up to spread cheer at the annual Christmas parade in Mount Olive Saturday morning on Breazeale Avenue.

It was just a few minutes past 3:30 Saturday afternoon, as the last of four area parades was about to get underway in downtown Goldsboro.

Like the others -- Mount Olive, Fremont and Princeton -- it would offer the usual array of marching bands, elected officials, beauty queens and Santa Claus bringing up the rear.

But one element made Goldsboro's parade special -- snow.

First, a few flakes fell here and there. A few minutes later, the flurries grew heavier. Then, as if on cue, the holiday lights along Center Street lit up as the parade began to the tune of "Let It Snow."

"On the way here, I thought I saw some snowflakes on Ash Street, but I said, 'No!'" said Billie Ann Culbreth of Goldsboro, positioned under an awning near the beginning of the parade route with friend Brad Helms. She recalled seeing snow at another Christmas parade many years ago and said the sight of the falling flakes made it feel like Christmas was already here.

Megan Graham of Goldsboro was nestled in the back of an SUV, the hatch raised. Her children, Antonio Ervin, 5, and Meya Graham, 4, were bundled up in hats and coats, covered by a Barney blanket.

Antonio said his favorite part of the parade was the drums. Meya said she wanted to see the cheerleaders. They'd already visited Santa Claus at the mall earlier in the day, but admitted they would like to see him again.

At the other end of Center Street, Sophia Pittman of Goldsboro decided to make use of her car's trunk for shelter. She was joined by her two sons, Hunter, 6, and Andrew 3, and her nephew Daniel Curtis, 13.

"We didn't have my husband's truck today," she explained.

"It was my idea," Hunter said of the accommodations.

"It's actually warm in here," Mrs. Pittman said. "We've got snacks, pillows, blankets, whatever they need to keep them quiet."

Tammy Gardner and Lisa Stout, both of Goldsboro, found a spot near a traffic light to watch the show go by.

"I have not been to the parade in a long time," Ms. Gardner said. "I usually have to work, but got off in time today.

"I came last year for the first time," Ms. Stout said.

Ms. Gardner, who grew up in the Pikeville area, said she has always enjoyed the Goldsboro parade for its festive feel. Pikeville will hold its own parade today at 4 p.m.

Saturday started off with Mount Olive's parade at 10 a.m.

Nearly 90 groups lined up on the Mount Olive College campus, winding through the Roses and Food Lion parking lot, before hitting Breazeale Avenue, where the crowds had lined the street.

Encore, a performance group from Goldsboro, was back after missing last year's parade, said member John Stutts.

The musical group was formed six years ago and does an "eclectic array of music," from beach and pop to Christian songs, said member Wanda Becton.

Dolly Witt prepared background music as Sue Nobers recited the group's last-minute instructions -- "We're supposed to smile and be enthusiastic and get people in the Christmas spirit and Christmas cheer," she said.

Husband Don Nobers' task was simple.

"I'm the sleigh driver," he said with a smile.

Near the roadway, friends Caitlin Ulrich and Alexis Lee, both 10, and students at Mount Olive Middle School, enjoyed snacks on a blanket as they awaited the parade.

Nora Sasser of Dudley, Caitlin's grandmother, was also there with her brother, Arthur Mitchell of Goldsboro, and daughter Brenda Ulrich. They said they arrived early to get a good spot.

Heather Turner and her mother, Lindsey Howell, both of Mar-Mac, turned out to see one entrant in particular.

"(My son) Raiford Turner and his sister Leah's hitching a ride, too," she said. "He's in Cub Scout Pack 10 with Providence (Methodist) Church. They have a huge tractor trailer."

Mrs. Turner came prepared with a thermos of coffee. Standing nearby, Johnnie Price of Duplin County, whose wife stayed behind in the car to keep warm, said he was comfortable with the winter weather.

"This coat here will hold up to four below," he said.

By midday, the sun had popped out and the temperature had improved, albeit slightly.

The Fremont parade had about 85 entries this year, said Keith Stewart, one of the organizers. Sponsored by Fremont Boy Scout Troop 12, there were a few changes this year, including the arrival of Santa Claus in a horse-drawn carriage.

"For the first time in several years, we have the Goldsboro High School band performing and we're tickled to death to have them come down and join us," Stewart added.

Grand marshals were Pat and W.T. Smith.

"Smith is on the Fremont Town Board and past chief of the Fremont Fire Department," Stewart said. "But their claim to fame is they are owners and operators of Capitol Cafe, which everybody down here knows as W.T.'s."

The couple were set to ride in a black and blue vintage car with yellow wheels, owned by Burton Smith of Fremont.

"It's a 1930 Ford Model A -- we're the same age," quipped Burton. "I have had it 12 or 14 years. I get it out once every five or six weeks."

As entrants began lining up at Main and Vance streets around noon, the strains of the Charles B. Aycock High School marching band could be heard.

Faleasha McCullen, a junior color guard member, said she enjoys being in a parade but especially likes participating in competitions. The group has won three trophies already this year, she pointed out.

Martisha Neal, a senior and color guard captain, said the 11-member group is participating in four parades this year -- Parkstown, Eureka, Fremont and Pikeville.

"My main stress is everybody being together so we'll look uniform," she said. "It means a lot. Plus it's my senior year."

Band director Michael Palmer has been working with the 56-member group for months, starting with band camp in August followed by competitions throughout football season, before switching to Christmas music. The band alternated between two holiday selections in the parade, he said.

Sophomore Shane Dussault has played an instrument since he was in fifth grade, starting with the clarinet before switching to the saxophone three years ago.

"It's fun, being able to march and play," he said. "It was a change, but it's a fun change."

There is a knack for being able to play and walk a parade route, Palmer said, which is one of the many fundamentals he reviews throughout the year. When it's time to perform, he steps out of the limelight and turns over the conducting role to the drum major, senior Brooke Jackson. She sets the tone for the band, he said, gauging the crowd along the route.

"Whenever there's a big group of people, I'll signal the band to play," she said. "If it's not busy, drums will just play a cadence."

Palmer noted the new uniforms the band was sporting.

"They have been given high marks everywhere we go. Everyone talked about the powder blue," he said.

Cheyenne Craft, a freshman trumpet player, had her own cheering section, in the form of dad Casey Craft, who drove in from Columbia, S.C., 13-year-old brother Bryan Craft, a student at Norwayne, and grandmother Karen Creech of Goldsboro.

Jess Sauls brought son Christian, 11, who said he just liked watching the parade "and the candy."

Chris Sauls of Eureka, with daughter Brooke, 7, waited for his wife, Teresa, to return with some lunch.

"I did want to see a parade but I also have one friend in it," Brooke said.

"We have got to see the fire trucks," her dad added. "In Eureka we always have to help put on the parade, so we came over here to see one."

Parade watcher Betty Aycock lives in Wilson, but her husband grew up in Fremont.

"He went back to the car to get a hat," she said.

Donald Gerald Aycock said he went to school in Fremont and attended Aycock's Church, which bears the family name. He is also distantly related to former Gov. Charles B. Aycock, he said.

"He enjoys the parade," his wife said.

"I get to see old friends and relatives, but I tell you what, there's a new crop coming up in the last 20 years," Aycock said.

Walking down the sidewalk on Main Street as the parade began was Marsha Boyette, a vision in red. But not the holiday variety -- she and 8-month-old son Luke were wrapped in an N.C. State red blanket while the baby wore a Santa hat and red-and-white striped mittens.

They were primarily there, she said, to see her 4-year-old son Gabriel riding on the float for Fremont Methodist Preschool.

Meanwhile, Diane Van DeCar of Goldsboro did all she could to entertain 20-month-old granddaughter Hannah.

"We have been here since 11:30," she said as the 1 p.m. parade start time drew near. "I keep thinking she's going to get tired, but frankly, I am."