Freezing cold didn’t stop a crowd from gathering for Smithfield’s annual Christmas parade on Thursday.
Hundreds of people lined Market Street from Sixth Street to Second Street to watch 86 entries go by. Those entries ranged from tiny cars to a huge farm machine almost as tall as nearby buildings. Also on hand were clowns, beauty queens, dance groups and, of course, Santa Claus.
Meggie McClare of Smithfield came to the parade “because I’m in the Christmas spirit.”
McClare came with her niece, great-niece and great-great-niece. Bundled up with her family, sitting in chairs on the sidelines, McClare said people should come out to support their community. “And Christmas is a wonderful time to do it,” she said.
The parade began at 7 p.m. and lasted for about an hour. Scott Gandolph, owner of Gandolfo’s Deli, and Chris Johnson, formerly head of the Downtown Smithfield Development Corp., narrated the event in front of the town’s Christmas tree.
The two said they try to keep the crowd warm, especially while everyone is waiting for the parade to come through. Before the parade began, the two encouraged people to come to the microphone and sing, and last year, they said, people even danced. “It’s cold out here; we want to get them warm,” Gandolph said.
Parade participants included Boy Scout troops, candidates for office, fire trucks and the DNA Bail Bonds jail-cell float banned from the Clayton parade. The Smithfield-Selma High School marching band, which recently won a national championship competition, ushered in Santa, who rode a sleigh.
Tawanda Vick of Smithfield came with her husband and 9-year-old son. She said the parade “lifts you up” and “gets you in the Christmas spirit if you haven’t already got it.”
Kaitlyn Lengel, 9, of Smithfield likes coming to the Christmas parade because it’s a family tradition, and she hopes to run into some of the other girls in her scout troop. Also, “they throw out candy,” she said.
The Smithfield’s Parks and Recreation Department organizes the parade. “It’s a good Christmas thing to do as a family,” said staff member Tiffany Pearson. “It’s kid-friendly, family-oriented. It’s just good, clean fun.”
Kaylisa McQueen, a sophomore at South Johnston High School, said the parade is a chance “to experience Johnston County in a whole other way.”
“It’s really great,” she said among the throngs of people. “It’s nice to know that the town’s really involved.”
McQueen liked that the parade included firefighters and emergency medical personnel.
Halfway through the parade, she couldn’t pick a favorite group. “I love it all,” she said. “I’m really having fun except for my freezing fingers.”