Under blue skies, with moderate temperatures, Wilkes County residents turned out in droves for the annual Wilkes County Christmas Parade, stacking up four deep in many places along the route.
The parade, which kicked off at 1 p.m., was again organized by the Wilkes Chamber of Commerce. Registration began at 7 a.m., and participants spent the morning getting their floats ready and lined up.
The starting point for the parade was the intersection of Sixth and Main Street in North Wilkesboro continuing west on Main Street to 10th Street. The parade continued two blocks on 10th to D Street (rather than C Street as it had in several previous years) before turning west on D Street to the Central Business District Loop. The parade then turned onto Wilkesboro Boulevard to Wilkesboro Avenue, crossing the Yadkin River Bridge before turning west on Main Street and continuing through Wilkesboro to the end point at the BB&T Bank at the Curtis Bridge Road intersection.
The parade led off with the Christmas parade banner, carried by ROTC cadets from Wilkes Central and North Wilkes high schools. That was followed by the grand marshals, local elected officials and dignitaries, and the other parade entries. Santa Claus, known also as Gerald Lankford, once again rode on the North Wilkesboro Fire Department’s elevated platform truck. Santa’s appearance was sponsored by the North Wilkesboro Rotary Club.
One of the highlights leading the parade was the Wells Fargo stagecoach, carrying parade marshals Luther and Janice Parks and their children. Luther Parks, a distribution manager with Duke Energy, was a Wilkes County commissioner for 10 years and has served on a number of nonprofit boards.
The parade was again financially sponsored by the towns of Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro.
“We had a huge parade — probably one of the largest ever — and everything went great,” said Linda Cheek, the president of the Wilkes Chamber of Commerce which organizers the annual event.
“The staging areas for the parade were packed and overflowing. We had floats, trailers and units from nonprofits lined up three abreast on the Central Business District Loop from Sixth Street to Ninth Street, and the overflow on Ninth Street. The large parking lot behind the chamber offices (adjacent to the CBD Loop) was filled with classic cars and vehicles carrying kings, queens, princes and princesses from local schools and pageants. There were lots of fire trucks, and at least 60 horses and riders, with horse-drawn wagons and carriages as well.”
The parade took 90 minutes to pass the thousands who lined the route. They watched the parade in perfect weather conditions with temperatures hovering around the 60-degree mark.
“We had lots of kids, as usual, and that was nice,” said Mrs. Cheek. “That’s what this is all about. Also, this is a great way to bring people downtown. We had some beautiful entries as well.”
The parade was co-sponsored by the Towns of Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro, and Holly Mountain Enterprises Inc., and company president Bob Ashley.
“We really appreciate Holly Mountain Enterprises and Bob for all they have done to help with the parade,” Mrs. Cheek added. “Bob really gives back to the community.”
One of the few minor glitches in the parade came when the former North Wilkesboro Speedway pace car carrying North Wilkesboro Mayor Robert Johnson encountered mechanical problems as the parade turned onto East Main Street in Wilkesboro. Johnson quickly switched to the car of North Wilkesboro Police Chief Joe Rankin.
“The fuel pump quit,” explained Johnson. “It needed to go a little faster, I suppose, and we couldn’t do that in a parade.”
Many of Wilkes County’s fire departments and emergency organizations added their trucks and personnel to the lengthy parade, along with the participation of the Wilkes Sheriff’s Department and the Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro police departments.
Dignitaries riding in the parade included Wilkesboro Mayor Mike Inscore, North Wilkesboro Mayor Robert Johnson, Wilkes Sheriff Chris Shew and Wilkes Chamber of Commerce Chairman Chuck Smithey.
Parade entries included Alex Wilkins, Antioch Baptist Church, Aqua Techs Swim Team AQTC, Assembly of God’s Word, Austin Pendry, Blue Ridge Shrine Club, Boy Scout Troop 325, Boy Scout Troop 333, Brushy Mountain Bee Farm, Century Link, Chick-fil-A of Wilkesboro, Christian Home Baptist Church, Communities In Schools of Wilkes, CrossRoads Harley-Davidson, Cub Scout Pack 301, Cub Scout Pack 325, CWMS Cheerleaders, Dean Wellborn, Don Pennington, East Wilkes FFA, East Wilkes High School, Edgewood Baptist Church, Foothills Corvette Club, Freedom Baptist Church, Girl Scouts PZP, H&R Block, Hannah Bumgarner (Tiny Miss Wilkes County), Hannah Huffman (WWHC maid of honor), Holly Mountain Enterprise, Holly Mountain Enterprise (Run-In ), Holly Mountain Enterprise (Coffee House), Holly Mountain Enterprise (farm and garden), Holly Mountain Enterprise (Moon Pie golf cart), Holly Mountain Enterprise (Run-In van), Holly Mountain Enterprise (Woodhaven), Holly Mountain Enterprises (Infiniti), Holly Mountain personal car, Home Instead Senior Care, Humane Society of Wilkes, Jacob Harris, James Joines, king and queen of Mountain View School, Little Miss High Country, Little Mountain Railroad, Little Mr. and Miss Mountain View School, Marine Corps League No. 1187, Millers Creek Christian School, Mr. and Miss Cougar, Mr. and Miss Wilkes Community College, N.C. Forest Service, North Wilkes High FFA, North Wilkes High School homecoming, North Wilkes High School Marching Vikings, North Wilkes JV cheerleaders, North Wilkes Middle cheerleaders, North Wilkes varsity cheerleaders, prince and princess of Mountain View School, Ronda Fire Department, Rose Glen Village, Rotary Club and North Wilkesboro Fire Department fire truck with Santa Claus, Savanna Grace Jennings (Little Miss Wilkes County), Sertoma Eagles cheerleaders, Steppin’ Out Studio, Studio 68 for Dance & Performing Arts, Thomas and Crystal Felts, Tonya’s Academy of Dance, Valley Storm All Stars, VFW Post 1142 State Buddy Poppy king, WCAC Little Miss Princess, WCC Emergency Medical Science, WCHS/NWHS Air Force JROTC, Welcome Home Baptist Church children’s department, West Wilkes JV cheerleaders, West Wilkes Sertoma cheerleaders, Wilkes Central High School cheerleaders, Wilkes Central High School Marching Eagles, Wilkes Christian Church, Wilkes County Recreation girls softball, Wilkes County Cruisers, Wilkes County FCCLA, Wilkes County Public Library, Wilkes Early College High School, Wilkes Public Health Mobile Dental Clinic, Wilkes Yellow Jacket cheerleaders, Boy Scout Troop 336, East Wilkes High School Marching Cardinals, Footloose Express Cloggers, Krista LaPlante (West Wilkes homecoming queen), Red Knights of Wilkes Chapter 16, Team Nurse, West Wilkes High School EV team and the West Wilkes High School Marching Blackhawk Band.
As usual, at the end of the parade were a great number of horses and riders.
Float winners were chosen and awards were presented in the hour before the start of the parade.
The Mayor’s Award went to Assembly of God’s Word; Freedom Baptist Church won the Grand Marshal’s Award; Edgewood Baptist Church was the pick for the Chamber of Commerce Chairman’s Award; and the Best of Theme Award went to Steppin’ Out Studio.