GARLAND — The town’s N.C. STEP committee, in conjunction with the town of Garland, is preparing for a fast-approaching Christmas parade and tree-lighting celebration that has been set for the end of the month.
The festivities are in the initial planning stages, and Brenda Cromartie, representing the N.C. STEP (Small Towns Economic Prosperity) committee, pleaded to the Garland Board of Commissioners earlier this week for the town’s assistance in readying for a parade. This year will mark the second-annual tree lighting.
“We pray that you will consider joining us in fellowship and peace in planning this,” said Cromartie. “We need your help.”
She said the event would be held Saturday, Nov. 30. A starting time is not firm, but it is expected to begin about 5 p.m., with the parade first and the tree-lighting afterward. Groups would sing around the new 12-foot tree and Santa Claus would show up atop the town’s fire truck, she said.
“We want businesses to do decorations and make it beautiful,” said Cromartie, who noted that the normal parade route down U.S. 701 would have to be reserved through the N.C. Department of Transportation. “This is why we need your help. This wouldn’t be a parade to try to make money. We would offer free entries — and we’re not looking for 50 entries either. We would cut it off.”
Cromartie said she has already make contact with some local community groups and schools, who expressed interest in participating. However, coordinating with the DOT and possibly the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office to block off streets was vital to the parade.
“We need the expertise of everyone here, not just one or two people,” Cromartie said to the board, “because we only have two weeks.”
The idea arose from board discussions when it became evident the long-running Garland Rotary Fair and Parade would not be able to be held on the first Saturday of October for the first time in more than 30 years, due to a revoked Rotary charter. For years, town officials touted that event with attracting a large number of people, putting the town on display and allowing vendors a good chance to advertise themselves and bringing outside revenue into the southern Sampson town.
The Rotary issue caused dissension among contingents of the Garland population and among members of the board, but a light at the end of the tunnel was identified in the possibility of an expanded holiday event.
Commissioner Ralph Smith and others ultimately suggested in September the possibility of having a Christmas parade to coincide with the town’s tree-lighting. Garland mayor Winifred Murphy said the N.C. STEP committee had previously floated that option and the town could proceed with it.
However, the issue had not been broached again publicly until the board’s meeting earlier this week, which meant planning had to be in earnest. The Garland board, on a motion made by Smith, unanimously agreed to assist in planning the parade and tree-lighting ceremony.
“This would be a night-time parade like the one they do in Roseboro,” Murphy said. “iI would culminate with the tree lighting. I think this is a very good project for the town.”
Despite the tight deadline, Cromartie noted that the N.C. STEP committee was able to plan a similar parade for its STEP Kick-off Celebration under a two-week deadline. The Garland Senior Center is expected to sell hot chocolate and baked goods as part of a fundraiser to help with the center’s programs, “the only commercialism” at the event, the mayor said.
Along with businesses decorating for the holidays, Cromartie urged all entrants to decorate and light up their vehicles as part of the parade. For more information, or to participate, call the Garland Town Hall at 910-529-4141.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.