“From my vantage point, I thought the turnout was very good,” said Judy Sewell, executive director the Henderson Area Chamber of Commerce. “I’ve heard very positive comments from people who were riding in the parade,” she said. “They said the crowd was very good all along the route. The weather was absolutely perfect, so we certainly should have a record-breaking crowd.”
The theme of the 2012 parade was “Musical Notes and Holiday Floats” and the more than 70 participants were each judged on originality, theme observance and artistic appeal or beauty.
Winners of the 2012 parade were, in the not-for-profit category: first place, Down Home Cloggers; second place, Grandview Baptist Church; and third place, Rusk County Panther Cheerleaders.
In the commercial category, first place was awarded to Ballard Bail Bonds and second place went to Lowe’s Home Improvement.
Sewell said the Henderson Rotary Club was instrumental in the parade’s success.
“The Henderson Rotary Club is an absolutely invaluable asset,” she said. “It would have been very difficult without the Rotary volunteers. They lined up the parade entries and worked intersections to help control traffic.”
While most of the attendees were Henderson residents, the appeal of the parade reached throughout Rusk County and beyond. Carl Otis lives in Houston but grew up in Henderson and still has family in the area.
“My grandchildren were in the parade, so I had to come, but I was very impressed with how big it has grown in recent years,” he said. “The tree in the square and the whole downtown area just looks amazing.”
Kristie Long of Mount Enterprise said her children loved the floats but the biggest draw for them was “Jolly Ol’ St. Nick.”
“My husband and I thought the entire parade was great, just really well organized,” she said. “But seeing Santa Claus was the highlight of their night.”
Andy Samuels, age 9, of Henderson said it was one of the best parades he could remember.
“It just keeps getting better and better,” she said. “I love this time of year and I’m already looking forward to next year’s parade.”
Henderson Mayor Pat Brack praised the work of local law enforcement and emergency officials in keeping the traffic running smoothly both before and after the event.
“It was easy to get in to the parade to find parking and easy to get out after it was done,” he said. “All the hard work of the many volunteers helped make this one of the best city-wide events in recent memory.”
With mild weather there was nothing to cool the enthusiasm of numerous Overton and Rusk County residents who attended the area’s first Christmas parade of the holiday season Monday night.
Jeannie Faulkner Barber, Overton-New London Area Chamber of Commerce secretary, said the combination of media publicity and strong momentum from last month’s Fall Fest contributed to one of the highest parade turnouts in years.
“We had over 45 entrants in the parade,” Barber said. “With television, radio, and especially our local newspaper publicizing it in advance I think it brought a lot of excitement to this year’s parade. I think everyone had a really good time and we’d like to thank all the sponsors and volunteers who gave so generously to make this such a success.”
Officers from the Overton Police Department were on hand to ensure a safe and memorable night for all parade attendees and participants. In 2008 a driver crossed the barricades, sending three Cub Scouts to the hospital for the holidays.
OPD Chief Clyde Carter said safety is the utmost priority for his officers, especially since the events of four years ago, and that the department maintained a zero-tolerance policy on any drivers attempting to violate the parade route. City officials described the event as a great success, and hope to continue to improve upon the parade each year.
“I think it’s great,” said city councilman C.R. “Coach” Evans. “I think we’ve made a few minor adjustments each time and hopefully we can keep making it bigger and better.
Barber agreed, saying that the chamber members’ work to increase the decorations and lights in the downtown area really helped give the event a festive feel.
After the parade there were other local events, with Santa Claus on-hand to talk with children of all ages about what they’d like to get for Christmas.
“I thought that was a really nice touch last year when we came,” said Henderson resident Beth Harris. “I’m glad they brought it back, and I just love all the decorations.”
Also following the parade was a special “open house” at the McMillan Memorial Library, where guests could enjoy homemade confections and hot cocoa.
Jann Smith, Overton branch manager for the Rusk County Public Library, said they hope to make this an annual tradition with the parade.
“We were hoping we’d have enough turnout to justify doing this every year,” she said with a laugh. “With visitors still here at 9 p.m. I think we got our answer.”
Overton Mayor John Ed Welch praised the many hands involved in making this year’s parade a success.
“Something like this can’t be pulled off by one or two folks, it takes a lot of hands,” he said. “I think it came off really well and that’s a credit to everyone who helped out.”
Carter credited the assistance of several area police and fire departments in helping maintain a safe perimeter.
“We’d like to extend our thanks and appreciation to local police and fire departments for assisting us with traffic control and keeping the area secure,” he said. “We’ve been having meetings with these other departments over the last few months in preparation, and I think it paid off really well.”
Once again the city took preventative measures in shutting down traffic along the main section of Commerce Street for a half hour before the beginning of the parade. The roadway was not reopened until participants had cleared the parade route.
“We continued to utilize more barricades this year,” Carter said. “The assistance from other agencies allows us to have more of a presence and to ensure the safety of those in attendance.”