After last week’s Christmas in the Park festivities, the city of Hinesville continued its seasonal celebration Friday with the 15th annual Illuminated Christmas Parade. Seventy-five bright and colorful floats, cars and trucks cruised through downtown Hinesville from the traffic circle on Memorial Drive to Gen. Screven Way to Hendry Street to Main Street, drawing cheers and applause from the crowd of onlookers that gathered along the route.
“I think the parade is important to the community because it brings us together to celebrate the holiday season,” Liberty County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Leah Poole said. “We may all think holiday thoughts and appreciate one another, but this is really our chance to show off and create those magical holiday memories.”
Hundreds of children lined the streets, bouncing excitedly on curbs as parents sat in lawn chairs behind them, watching their little ones and the parade. Some of those checking out the parade did so for the first time, like 8-month-old Victoria Ruiz, whose chubby red cheeks lit up with excitement as the procession made its way past her. Victoria’s mom, Ronnie, said she brought her daughter to see how she’d react to the bright lights and fun. She said her husband, Pfc. Cory Ruiz, a soldier with the 3rd Squadron, 7th U.S. Cavalry, stayed home.
“I like parades and I think she’ll like this one,” said Ronnie Ruiz, a Southern California native. “I like it here because I like small towns.”
Ben Messer and his girlfriend, Amber Haymans, of Fleming observed the parade from Main Street, though Haymans said she walked in the parade last year with Cheryl Brett Dance Studio. Messer’s daughter, Kristina, 15, particularly was interested in seeing her boyfriend, a cadet with the Liberty County Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, while Haymans’ daughter, Carson, 11, said she was watching her first Christmas parade.
“I think it’s great for families,” Messer said. “It’s a great way to start the holidays.”
Bob Whiteley, a white-bearded resident of Midway who locals refer to as “Mr. Bob,” said he often gets a lot of attention during the holidays from children who point at him and exclaim, “Hey, there’s Santa!”
“It’s an honor to get that kind of comment from kids,” said Whiteley, grinning as he puffed on a long cigar. “My wife and I start wearing Santa hats every year beginning on Dec. 11 in memory of my daddy. That’s my daddy’s birthday, and he loved Christmas.”
According to Poole, the best floats chosen for this year’s parade were selected from three categories. The mayor’s (nonprofit) award went to CenturyLink Pioneer Club for first place, and Delta Sigma Theta took second. The chamber’s (business) award went to GeoVista Credit Union for first place, and Cheryl Brett Dance Studio took second. The school award went to Savannah Technical College for first place, and Bradwell’s BETA Club took second.
“This was my ninth year being involved in the Christmas parade, and I can honestly say I have never seen everything go as smoothly, and that was due in large part to the sheer volume and quality of the great volunteers,” Poole said.
Some of those volunteers she wanted to mention included her co-chairs, Susan McCorkle and Barbara Martin. There were too many other volunteers to list them all, she said, but their efforts greatly were appreciated.