More than 70 different organizations took to the streets of downtown Hinesville Friday evening during the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce’s 14th annual Christmas parade.
Around 5 p.m., people started lining the streets with chairs beneath twinkling white strands of Christmas lights. Families crammed close together to keep warm, wrapping themselves in fuzzy blankets and donning knitted scarves, hats and gloves.
Janay Reid and Shaquille Rusell brought their canvas chairs to sit in front of Joy Marie’s & The Frame Gallery like they do every year.
They even dressed up their dogs, Rocsi and Mojo, in red and white Christmas gear to get in the spirit.
“Just being out here and getting out of the house, it puts you in a Christmas feeling,” Reid said. “We just need to get together [as a community] and have fun and celebrate Christmas and joy.”
According to the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce website, the parade draws more than 10,000 spectators from Liberty County and the surrounding areas.
Floats, decorated in various fashions — a Spanish ship, nativity scenes and winter wonderlands — drifted through downtown and were judged on originality, creativity, lights and several other categories.
The winning float was GeoVista Credit Union’s complete with a nativity scene, fireplace and Christmas tree.
Marchers and float riders shouted “merry Christmas” and “happy holidays” while passing out candy and business cards to children and parents. Bradwell Institute JROTC also gave out red and green balloons with white lettering that declared, “Support Our Troops.”
Marcel and Marsha Backes have attended the annual parade for as long as they can remember.
“We come see it every year. It is like it gets better and better. It’s beautiful,” Marcel Backes said.
The couple said the parade and other holiday events are important because they are ways for military families to reunite and enjoy time together as troops return home.
Although they used to attend the parade with their daughter, the couple said they will continue to keep the tradition going, even if it is just the two of them sitting on the edge of a truck’s tailgate.
“We just enjoy any time there’s a parade in Hinesville because we know it’s not a long drive,” Marcel Backes said. “Christmas is probably the most special time of year.”
The parade ran approximately two hours, said Leah Poole, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce.
“I love to watch how excited the children are in this parade. It is a huge production that takes our committee and volunteers innumerable hours to put on,” Pool said. “However, when that first child says ‘merry Christmas’ it’s all magically worthwhile.”