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Soggy parade still a success
Brig. Gen. Jeffrey E. Phillips, one of the parade’s grand marshals, and CSM Jeffrey Ashmen ride in a decorated Humvee. (Correction: Ashmen was incorrectly identified earlier) - photo by Photo by Lawrence Dorsey
The Coastal Empire saw plenty of rain Friday night, but in downtown Hinesville, as nearly 2,000 people gathered for the 13th annual illuminated Christmas parade, the sun did put in an appearance. Floats decorated to fit the “Christmas on the Coast” theme incorporated the glowing sphere into their designs.
Viewers did what they could to liven the soggy scene. Many carried colorful beach umbrellas and cheering as they watched the procession’s 33 floats snake their way down Gen. Screven Way to the Liberty County Courthouse. Families clustered beneath blankets and coats as a steady drizzle enveloped the festivities and temperatures dipped as low as 40 degrees.
Rhonda Davis and Cynthia Wooten huddled together, trying to keep warm on the curb of Main Street.
“We’ve been coming to the parade since 1997,” Wooten said. “I was sitting right here that year, feet freezing and everything, so we’re not going to let a little rain stop us.”
“This is like a tradition,” Davis said. “We look forward to it every year. It is almost like this is the one event that brings the entire county together. It’s great.”
According to Liberty County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kenny Smiley, more than 86 groups, clubs and organizations from the region participated in the parade, most showcasing, in some form or fashion, scenes from around the Georgia coast.
Smiley, who helped coordinate the event, said the idea for the parade’s theme came after the parade’s organizers realized Liberty County is one of only six coastal counties in the state.
“We then started thinking of how creative you could be with that theme. We took all the nominated themes and voted. ‘A Christmas on the Coast’ was a clear winner,” he said.
The theme wasn’t the only winner for the night.
The 3rd Infantry Division drew thunderous applause and cries of support as the division’s 703 Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team marched by, led by the senior commander, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Phillips.
Phillips said the response will always be memorable for him.
“I tell you, these Southeast Georgians sure know how to party,” he said. “We’re just honored and delighted to be a part of it.”
Six of the parade’s entrants took home awards for having the best floats.
Liberty Elementary won first place for schools and Frank Long Elementary came in second.
For nonprofit organizations, the first place Mayor’s Award went to the Hispanic Heritage Club’s Feliz Navidad float and Marsh Hen’s Isle of Wight took home second for its “Santa Claws” float.
The Chamber of Commerce first place business award went to Fish World for its underwater coral display, and Vann’s Restaurant took second.
Smiley said an incalculable amount of work and planning when into making the celebration a success. This year, the parade’s major sponsors were the city of Hinesville, McDonalds, The Heritage Bank, First United Methodist Church of Hinesville, GeoVista Credit Union, NeSmith Chevrolet and Atlantic Foot & Ankle Specialists. Chamber staffers, the board of directors and a few dedicated community volunteers handled most of the organizing.
And, of course, the director said safety is always a priority.
“A few days before the event and the day of the event are crazy for not only the volunteers, but for OMI, the Hinesville Police Department and the Hinesville Fire Department as well. Without the help of these organizations, the parade would not go off without a hitch,” Smiley said. “The board of education should be commended as well for allowing the usage of their grounds and facilities to stage such a huge event.”
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