Families turn out for Jacksonville Christmas tradition
by Paige Rentz
prentz@annistonstar.com
Nov 29, 2012 | 4457 views |  0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jacksonville State University’s cheerleaders perform for the parade crowd on Thursday night. (Anniston Star photo by Anita Kilgore)
Jacksonville State University’s cheerleaders perform for the parade crowd on Thursday night. (Anniston Star photo by Anita Kilgore)
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JACKSONVILLE — Lights twinkled, bells jingled and children rushed to grab a hug from Frosty the Snowman as residents from across the county turned out for the first Christmas parade of the season Thursday.

For many lined up along Pelham Road, the parade is an essential element of the season.

Jacksonville resident Sherry Laster, who was collecting candy with her son Kennedy, 8, called it a “family tradition.”

“We get out and see other families I haven’t seen in a long time,” she said.

Deborah Mitchell made the trip from Oxford for the music and floats making their way through Jacksonville. She said she tries to attend as many of the area Christmas parades as possible.

“I think parades are very important,” she said, explaining that participating in them or just lining up along the street to be a part of the community builds character for kids.

For Naomi Byrd, a 10-year-old from Alexandria, the parade brought “all of the flashing lights that come around Christmas.”

Naomi said she is really excited about the coming season, which was obvious as she bounced in place, waving to passersby and shouting “Merry Christmas!”

There was plenty for Naomi to wave at. According to Rita Edwards, volunteer coordinator for the parade, more than 130 entrants — including several bands, about 30 floats, and dozens of area churches, businesses, organizations and school groups — paraded through Jacksonville Thursday night.

For Edwards, who took on the parade 22 years ago, the annual tradition is a labor of love. “I love to see the smiles on kids’ faces when they see Santa Claus,” she said, “and the adults when they run for candy.”

Pam Strauder, 47, is a lifelong resident of Jacksonville who has been coming to the city’s Christmas parade for as long as she can remember. Settled at the southeast corner of the city’s public square with her 5-year-old grandson, Preston, Strauder said she was glad she could pass down her love of the parade to a younger group.

“When he gets older he’ll be able to say, ‘My Mee-Mee took me to the parade,’ and he’ll be able to do it with his own kids,” she said. “It means a lot to be able to do something that you know is going to go on down the generations.”

Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.

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