Colorful, lighted floats, fire trucks, trailers and other vehicles brightened downtown Hinesville on Friday evening during the 16th Annual Illuminated Christmas Parade.
The line of cars, floats, marching bands and performing arts groups brightened Welborn, Gen. Screven Way and Hendry Street, and then Main Street for about an hour and a half.
“We’ve got 32 soldiers with the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team marching in tonight’s parade,” Lt. Col. Gary Belcher, 3rd Infantry Division G-7, said. “We also have Col. Mark McDonald, commander of our Dental Command, and Command Sgt. Major Jimmy Pegues, the rear detachment command sergeant major. Oh, and our mascot Rocky is marching tonight.”
only light jackets, though some hardy souls were still in short-sleeves.
Families were vying for the best seats nearly an hour before the parade began. Some brought lawn chairs. Many adults and bigger kids sat on the curb. Younger children waited in their strollers.
“This is the first time we’ve been to the Christmas parade here,” said Pfc. Andrew Harvey, a 4th IBCT soldier who laughed when asked why he wasn’t marching with other members of his unit. “I wanted my family to see it. We’ve only been here since September.”
Harvey said Fort Stewart is his second assignment since coming in the Army in 2011, having just completed a year in Korea. Harvey, his wife Danielle and children Landon, 6, and Sophia, 15 months, were seated on the curb across from the justice center.
A few minutes after 6:30, police radios alerted officers the parade had started. Nearly a half hour later, the first vehicle, an HPD patrol car, led a color guard and vehicles carrying the 3rd ID command representatives, into the review area in fron of the old courthouse on Main Street. Their vehicle was followed by the platoon-size element of Dog Face soldiers singing the “Marne Song.”
Vehicle after vehicle covered in Christmas lights and carrying local leaders moved up the street as children and adults waived or called to someone they knew. City council members, county commissioners, and the mayors of Hinesville, Midway, Riceboro and Walthourville were among them.
Outgoing First Presbyterian Christrian Academy headmaster, Sammi Hester, was the parade’s grand marshal. Float winners were:
Chamber’s award for businesses: 1. The Pet Shop, 2. Cheryl Brett Dance Studio.
Mayor’s award for nonprofits: 1. St. Stephen Catholic Church, 2. Hinesville Area Board of Realtors.
Superintendent’s award for schools: 1. Kessler Elementary School, 2. Joseph Martin Elementary School.
Another float carried members of 3rd Class Citizens singing Alabama’s “Christmas in Dixie,” only their song had a change in one verse. The singer pointed out they were in Hinesville, rather than Fort Payne, Ala.
The parade’s last participants came by the courthouse shortly after 8 p.m., allowing hundreds of families to carry tired little ones back to the car and home.
According to Leah Poole, chief executive officer of the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce, this year’s theme was “A Vintage Christmas, Celebrating the Culture and Heritage of Liberty County.”