There was a revival going on in downtown Seven Springs on Saturday afternoon that began with the resurrection of the community's Christmas parade and swept over the crowd that lined the streets.
Nearly 100 entrants signed up for the event, shelved last year after Hurricane Matthew devastated the historic village and which remained uncertain as the occasion drew closer.
Town commissioner Ronda Hughes pitched the idea to bring it back this year to the town board, drawing immediate support as the shot in the arm the community needed and reflecting the fortitude of its residents.
Danny and Diane Taylor arrived early and set up camp on the tailgate of their pickup truck.
"I have not come down here for about six or seven years," he said.
They live about two and one-half miles from downtown Seven Springs, he said, and were among the fortunate who didn't get flooded out last year. It still "kind of put a dent in it" with the annual parade and other festivities like Old Timey Days being canceled.
"This is my first time seeing the parade," said his wife. "We just got married a year and a half ago.
"I think it's a wonderful idea to bring it back."
Taylor agreed, expressing his faith in the community.
"I think this town will come back," he said. "But I also think a lot of people will be from out of town."
Patsy Barnes pulled up her chair in the roadway in front of the post office, but then admitted she was actually going to watch the proceedings from her vehicle.
"I'm saving a parking space for my daughter, who's on her motorcycle," she said.
Barnes, her husband, John, and daughter, Theda Barnes were looking forward to seeing Theda's son, their grandson, Logan Barnes, who plays saxophone in the Spring Creek High School band.
Patsy now lives in Goldsboro but said she grew up in Seven Springs and still enjoys returning to see friends and support her hometown.
"We come all the time," she said of the parade. "My great-grandfather used to live on a farm off of Hwy. 111, and back in the day he was like a county commissioner. My mother was raised down here.
"I just think it's a coming together of the community and even though we have lost a lot, we're still a community."
Melissa Lane, decked out in a red and green sequin hat, still lives in Seven Springs. Her daughter was riding on the Walker Memorial Church float, but that was just one reason she showed up.
"It's a family tradition," she said. "We have always been to the Seven Springs parade.
"It seemed weird last year because the parade is one of the things that started off Christmas. We know it's the start of the Christmas season."
Patsy Grant lives right across the bridge, so she has a LaGrange address but still calls Seven Springs her "stomping grounds."
"We're just glad the parade is coming back," she said before things got underway. "Even if it's going to be a little smaller than normal. There's a lot of anticipation, being the first parade of the season."
She was there with her grandchildren, Margo Foucht, 9, and younger brother, Matthew, 3, as well as Emery-Kate Dawson, 8, and sister, Eden-Kole Dawson, 5.
"I wanted to come with my cousins because it's really fun and well, I came two years ago and I loved it," said Margo.
"I think I have been to a parade before when I was a baby," said Emery-Kate. "I hear about all the parades and the candy. I love candy!"
The children made some "slime" before coming, their grandmother said. Matthew was occupied squeezing the cold, clammy white concoction as he waiting patiently for things to begin.
Aside from the candy that may be tossed from the parade participants -- "any kind of candy," Emery-Kate pointed out -- she was looking forward to seeing Santa Claus.
Eden-Kole was pulling for a sighting of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, she said.
The parade quietly came into view, as the color guard approached, followed by sheriff Larry Pierce driving a large black SUV. And then the candy throwing began and children of all ages scattered to fill their bags with the confections.
But beyond the typical fare of antique vehicles and fire trucks, high school bands and floats, the centerpiece remained the town through which it all took place.
The goal is to keep building on its strength, most said.
That is already reflected in the reopening of the post office and staples like Mae's Restaurant.
Hughes' business, Neuse River Trading, is slated to reopen in January and the town is working on a temporary location for a new town hall.
Meanwhile, the fifth annual tree trimming is planned for Sat., Nov. 25, at 7 p.m. at Seven Springs Baptist Church.