DOBSON —The Dobson Lions Club and town recreation committee successfully staged the long-running Lions Christmas Parade with a first-ever tree lighting ceremony Saturday. Officials estimate that nearly 5,000 came to watch the parade with is up from a high of 3,500.
According to town manager Josh Smith the tree lighting was a bittersweet moment for the town. The event was dedicated to the memory of long-time community servant Kenneth Earnest, former chairman of the Dobson Library Board and member of the Dobson Recreation Committee.
Smith said Earnest had a major part in planning the tree lighting ceremony and had died one day before the event. His sons, Ben and Drew, lit the tree with other family members in attendance.
“The parks and recreation committee thought we needed more to offer the community at Christmas time,” explained Dobson Recreation Committee Chairman Rachel Pace. “Our parade is always great, but we felt something additional needed to be added for the holiday season.” She said the parade has been staged for more than 25 years.
“We are one of the few towns left that allow the parade participants to give out candy,” said Pace. “We also had more than 60 horses involved in the parade. There were a lot of tractors and motorcycles this year and one float represented the story, ‘A Christmas Carol.’”
Pace said she feels the participation in the parade has remained strong because so many different types of groups are in the event. She said the grand marshall this year was Fox 8 Television’s Emily Bird. The Surry Central marching band also performed in the parade as well as an appearance by Santa Claus.
Makiala Gail Johnson of PeaceLilly had brought her friend Deana Starnes to the parade for the first time and the two were obviously excited as they set up some folding chairs to wait for the parade.
“I’m looking forward to watching this,” said Starnes. “I really like watching the Christmas floats.” Starnes said this was her first Christmas parade that she had attended since she was a little girl. Johnson, however, said she was an old pro at parades.
“I’ve been in parades a lot down through the years,” said Johnson.”I like everything about them but it’s fun to just watch for a change. I guess if I had to choose something I really like the horses. I like the July 4 and veterans parades too.”
Sarah Fletcher, Amanda Calloway and Gabriella Calloway were also taking Gabriella to her first parade.
“I don’t know what to expect,” said Gabrielly Calloway. “The candy is the fun thing for the kids.” She explained how her friend, Tamara Martin, texted them at the last minute and convinced them to go to the parade. Martin said she, too, had grown up participating in Christmas parades, marching in them when she attended high school.
“The fun for me is seeing kids have a good time,” said Martin. “A parade is one of the few things left that is mostly for kids.”
Nine-year old Brooke Mosley looked very much the veteran as she set up her chair to wait on the parade.
“I have watched at least nine parades,” said Brooke. “Usually I am in the parade with my dance group. I like to dance a lot.” She explained that a recent bout of flu kept her from participating in the parade this year but wasn’t letting that dampen her Christmas spirit.
“I don’t like the loud siren’s that much but I really like the candy,” said Mosley.
Another first for the town this year is called the Christmas Ambush. Officials plan to stage a reverse Grinch as it were, for a needy Dobson family. Pace said nominations are being sought and are up to ten nominees.
“We are trying to get families to nominate another family in need due to sickness or loss of a job for instance,” said Pace. “Christmas week we plan on getting a friend of the family to let us in their home and we will decorate, set up the tree including gifts and prepare a meal for them.”
Pace said nominations can be made online at the town’s website, www.dobson-nc.com. She said only a few nominations have been received so they will be taking nominations for the remainder of this week.