HAMLET — Chilly temperatures seemed ideal Thursday with an overcast sky making colorful uniforms, costumes and floats stand out as hundreds of people lined the streets downtown waiting for a glimpse of holiday magic during the Hamlet Christmas Parade.
Standing on a Rice Street sidewalk, Judy Thompson peered toward Main Street as a police car’s siren signaled the start of the parade.
“My granddaughter is going to be riding the float with Second Baptist,” she said. “She’s in the Silent Witness Chorus, where they do sign language. She goes to school there, in third grade.”
Thompson’s other two grandchildren — Riley and Jackson — stood next to their mother, Dana Blubello playing with inflatable toys purchased from a vendor.
“Riley is four and Jackson is three,” Blubello said. “It’s their first parade. They’re ready to see Santa Claus.”
Across the street on a bench at Hamlet Public Library, Richmond County Schools’ Human Resources Director Julian Carter and daughter, Marian, watched as the first sights and sounds reached upper Main Street.
“We’re just here to enjoy the parade,” he said. “It’s just a great tradition we have here in our county, and it’s a lot of fun to see the community get together and share and get ready for Christmas.”
Carter said that he’s watched the parade “on and off” for as long as he could remember.
“But we’ve come about five years in a row, now,” he said. “Growing up in Ellerbe, I didn’t get down here a lot, but now that I can get around it’s a lot more fun. I can get here, and she always likes to come, so we take some time out and come by. It’s always a good time.”
The sirens grew louder as the police car drove slowly up Main Street ahead of the marchers and floats.
Trisha Parker said she’s attended the Christmas parade since she was a child.
“And I’m an old lady,” she said. “I just brought my grandchildren and my dogs. I’ve got this dog and that one over there.”
Her small, black and white dog, Parker, didn’t appear frightened by the noise and wagged his tail while she kept him close on a leash.
“And that is Boom-boom,” she said, pointing to a small brown dog being walked by her husband. “He got that name because he came on the Fourth of July to my house and took up, and would not leave. He stayed for three days and wouldn’t leave, so we brought him in and gave him a bath, and he’s slept with my husband ever since. He’s my husband’s dog, I guess.”
Onlookers began pointing and shouting as the sound of drums heralded the arrival of the 82nd Airborne Division’s All American marching band from Fort Bragg. The sirens grew even louder.
K’tier Armouny’a Ingram and her grandmother, Vernell Davis Riggins, radiated Christmas cheer.
“Go ahead, Tellie, say ‘Merry Christmas,’” Riggins encouraged. “We call her Tellie. Say, ‘Merry Christmas!’”
“Merry Christmas!” Tellie said in a musical toddler’s voice.
Riders on several passing floats waved, tossed gifts to the crowd and sang as they rode by. In addition to the traditional candy-throwing, other items included fortune cookies and rolls of bath tissue and paper towels.
The parade went off without a hitch — except for a brief interruption as a train crossed the tracks near the Hamlet Depot and Museums. Police were on hand to direct traffic as the crowd gradually dispersed.
Visit the Daily Journal on Facebook for more pictures from the 2016 Hamlet Christmas Parade.
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.