Spectators of all ages enjoyed Saturday’s Long County Chamber of Commerce Christmas Parade. I know I did. From start to finish, it was a good day, a fun filled day, a day full of laughter, a day, when people, their animals, and their little children, gathered in the streets in unity to share a season of being joyful and very merry for Christmas, and to spread not just candy, but give what they had to give of themselves.
As a Long County resident, I felt it too.
I felt a lot of love.
The grand marshal this year was Janet Watford, she was driven around by Ray Howard, the past-Chamber president. Ludowici Mayor James Fuller rode in a police car driven by the city’s interim police chief, Frank Middleton.
Before the parade, I spoke with Teresa Odum, chairperson of the parade committee and the contact person who handles the list of registry of entries for the parade. "We have quite a few entries," she said. "I believe we are going to have a good time."
The parade’s master of ceremonies were Steve Davis, pastor of Jones Creek Baptist Church, and Tammy Balance. Earl and Debe Austin played Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Judges for the parade were Cathy Hendrix and Misty Reneau, who gave me the names of the winning entries; New Beginning Church won first place in the church division, Ludowici Methodist Church was second. In the business choice category, Long County High School FFA won first and Walker Elementary student council was second.
Notes from the parade: I saw Linda Stevens, who was sitting near the curb, waiting for the parade to begin with her small pet Lucy and granddaughter Emma. The sidewalks were filled with lots of people.
As the horns blared and the sirens wailed to announce the parade was coming, I had just enough time to quickly ask questions to a group of kids standing nearby. Destiny and Jada, Carlita, Dakota and Madison and Mia. This was not their first parade. In unison, they shouted they feel "good" about this year’s version.
Then the Long County fire truck engine rolled past with two handsome little youths, Landon, 11, and Nathan, 7, who bravely took their ride in the fire truck, which was followed by a Long County Sheriff’s Department car, driven by Deputy David Horton. Then the Long County Police Department car drove past, and then there were so many cute little young cheerleaders tumbling past. I saw Olivia and Kelsie, two sophomores in the Blue Tide band, which marched and played, cranking up the crowd.
I talked to spectators, those who had entries in the parade and those who just came to enjoy the show. Ron Sellers was proud and excited for his student council croscrparade entries; beside him stood Elton Jerome, a spectator happy to be there.
So was Tiffany, who watched the parade with her four kids.
"I’m from here," she said. "I come every time. The kids love it."
Erin Houston of To the Point Dance said the parade "looks like it’s going to be the biggest Long County has had. The kids are excited."
Breanna and Kelly, cheerleading coaches, told me their kids are in the parade. They’ve got 62 of them, cheerleaders all. "We feel good about the parade," Kelly said. "Merry Christmas."
The horses were the last to pass by, for obvious reasons, but they were beautifully decorated, and very attractive, with braided hair. The horses were ridden by student riders for Sticky Limb Stables; owned and operated by Christine Fisher and for the Long County 4-H Club. Fisher said she teaches riders to be more than riders. She wants them to learn how to own a horse, which also means taking care of it.
The parade followed Thursday night’s annual tree lighting, which was also sponsored by the Chamber. This year’s tree lighting event was filled with fun, laughter, music and much more, as countless of people came together and lovingly presented some of the finest things they had put together and worked so diligently to prepare.
Long County Library Manager Tammy Goober held a fundraiser to raise money for books for the library. She had more than 20 cakes up for auction.
"The cakes are all donated by local cooks. They are all homemade," Tammy said. "We have a quilt, and tickets for the quilt are $1 each. Also, we have a photograph of the Old Well Pavillion, that they will auction off tonight along with the cakes."
Tammy raised $1,000 for books.
Master of ceremonies Charlie Smith launched the event into action with some awesome Christmas music, then the welcome was given by MC Mrs. Linda Smith, who gave the invitation to enjoy the food after the blessing, and announced all of the things to come to help get everyone in the Christmas spirit.
A special thanks was given to Beverly Johnson and Becky Fowler for the lights on the tree; and thanks to the city and a blessing for the food. A special thanks was also given to Brenda Howard who led the children from Smiley Elementary School band, and to the Long County Chamber of Commerce and the library and to the board of education.
Charlie Smith said the blessing, then he announced the count down for the lighting of the tree.
Santa and Mrs. Claus were played by Earl and Debe Austin, who also were in the parade Saturday. The live music was played by Smiley Elementary and Long County High School band members.
There were lots of little happy children with their parents who came to see such a beautifully decorated tree. Ludowici residents really united together and made this such wonderful time; there was a feeling of togetherness, and genuine love being spread throughout the evening.
I did speak with two teenagers after the lighting, Rex Johnson and Lah Kuhaneck.
"I felt like the tree lighting was pretty nice," Rex said, "I felt like it could have used some more lights, but other than that, there were a lot of people here this year."
Lah said the tree "was beautiful," and remarked on the number of people who attended and how good the cakes smelled. I asked the two teens if this was this their first tree lighting.
Not for Rex. He said he’s there every year because his mother, Beverly, and Becky Fowler "put a lot of this together."
"I used to climb them rafters and hang them lights," he said.
One last thing. Our librarian also wanted to let everyone know there are special events for children and adults at the library beginning this week during the Christmas season, including story time, pajama story, adult coloring night and Santa’s craft workshop.
Parents, please don’t forget that Santa will be coming to the library on Dec. 22 at 4 p.m. Before the New Year arrives, there is a New Year’s-themed story and craft time.
Check it out on Facebook and I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas.
This is a first column from Carolyn Leonard, who will write semi-regularly on Long County events.