The Valdosta Daily Times
It’s nearing Christmas time in the city, a fact that couldn’t be more apparent as the Greater Valdosta Community Christmas Parade snaked down North Patterson Street and wriggled into the heart of downtown on Saturday night.
The parade has been in the works since January of this year, said Parade Organizer Bob Cosby of Ossipe Temle No. 65, co-organizers of the event each year with the City of Valdosta. He said he’s been overseeing the enterprise of sorting the entrants into a cohesive line for more than 20 years.
Ossipe Temple’s Andy Anderson served as the parade’s Grand Marshal for his many years of dedication to the annual event and other charitable causes in the community.
President Berna Hepburn of the Filipino American Association of South Georgia said it was her group’s fourth year participating in the parade. She said her group wanted to promote its 23-year-old non-profit, while treating spectators to some Filipino Christmas hallmarks like the float’s “parol” Christmas tree topper.
“Our float is made of bamboo and the parol was imported from the Philippines - this group is industrious, but this is only a fraction of our members,” said Hepburn of her crowded float. “This is also the caroling group, so we’re going to bring some holiday greetings to the spectators. We’re just trying to share with Valdosta what a Filipino Christmas is like.”
In slight contrast to Hepburn’s Filipino-themed float, but in the same spirit, Jackie Hickman, secretary and treasurer of Wiregrass Georgia Christian Fellowship, said her group simply wanted to remind spectators of the holiday’s intent.
“We’re just trying to keep Christ in Christmas,” said Hickman of their rolling nativity scene. “We want to remind everyone that Christmas was meant to celebrate the birth of Christ and it’s not about the gift giving.”
While most parade entrants were locked in Christmas themes, representatives from Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society said they wanted to remind everyone of the worldwide effort being waged against cancer.
The American Cancer Society is fighting hard to create a world with more birthdays, said 2013 Relay Chair Robbie Dixon. He said there were roughly 25 survivors on the group’s float and he expected twice as many care givers to join on foot.
Community Manager Ashley Braswell of the American Cancer Society said the two organizations were again calling on citizens to step up to help defeat cancer.
“Were hoping that we can bring some awareness about what we do,” said Braswell. “And what we’re about is shutting down the lights at the American Cancer Society for good and going home.”
No matter what the cause, holiday cheer was abundant and could be seen in both spectators and parade entrants.
For Janet Lee and Brittany Penland, it’s about the Georgia Bridgemen. Lee said they enjoy so many things about the parade, but it’s easy to pin down Penland’s alma mater and Lowndes High School’s marching band as her favorite part of the parade.
From his family’s top-secret candy retrieval spot along the parade route, Allan Girsh and his family, wife Mary and daughter Haley, have attended the parade for years.
“It’s a tradition for us,” said Girsh. “We enjoy the lights and floats, but it’s all about spending time as a family. Oh, and Haley loves the candy.”
Judges will select the top three winning floats and trophies will be presenteto the winners at the next Valdosta City Council meeting in December. In addition, all proceeds from the event each year are donated to area charitable organizations.