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‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ parade wrap

Even a year like 2020 couldn’t keep the spirit of Christmas from invading the Camellia City last week.

Colorful lights, glittering decorations, imaginative costumes, festive holiday tunes and the jolly old elf himself all combined to make the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce’s “It’s a Wonderful Life in the Camellia City” Parade and Tree Lighting a success for participants and parade-goers alike. 70 entries proceeded down Commerce St. past a brilliantly illuminated Confederate Park, the 25-foot red cedar, donated by the John Boutwell family as the official city Christmas tree, adding to the colorful glow.

“It was a tough decision for our judges, but they were able to name first, second and third places winners in our Float and Vehicle Categories based on Overall Parade Theme, Originality/Creativity, Personalization and Christmas Spirit,” said Tracy Salter, GACOC director.

“First place entry in the Vehicle Category went to Kay and Scott Lightfoot for their charming ‘It’s a Wonderful C-10 Christmas’ pickup; second place was Camellia Collision’s ‘sleigh’ all-aglow truck and third place was a tie between The Grooming Company’s ‘doggone’ cute entry and Abbie Gardner Ballew’s festively attired State Farm car.”

In the Float Category, first place was awarded to Ozark Materials’ detailed re-creation of the city’s beloved Ritz Theatre showing “It’s a Wonderful Life;” second place went to St. Thomas Episcopal Church’s heavenly entry and First Realty of Greenville’s winter wonderful took third place honors.

Salter said this year’s theme was the brainchild of City of Greenville horticulturist, Jennifer Stringer. “The movie itself, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ which came out in the 1940s, takes us through the life of the ‘nice guy’ main character, George Bailey, and the series of broken dreams and disappointments he faces that bring him to the point of despair and a desire to end it all,” Salter said.

“And then, his guardian angel Clarence reveals to George just how different life would be for his family, friends and community, if it hadn’t been for all of his generosity and unselfishness over the years. George finally realizes just how truly rich he is,” Salter said.

In a year where many dreams have been dashed as COVID-19 turned daily lives topsy-turvy, impacting the health and well-being of so many, while forcing business closures, virtual schooling, event cancellations and postponements right and left, Salter says she felt Stringer’s vision for the parade was “an excellent choice.”

“We all know 2020 has been hard on many of the people, places and events in our community. It’s truly been a ‘Stink, Stank, Stunk’ kind of year,” Salter said.

“ So joining us from Whoville as our co-grand marshals were the Grinch (Ashley Adams) and Cindy Lou Who (Amy Hallford). These twin sisters provided a lot of merriment along the parade route, but they also reminded us that love, joy, laughter and compassion are qualities found in abundance here in our hometown.”

Salter also applauds others who helped make the downtown festivities a smooth-running and enjoyable event for all.

“We could not have done it without the assistance of the City of Greenville, our wonderful sponsors, Greenville Equipment Center, Quality Co-op and Alabama Power, and our Chamber Board and Camellia Girls and Chamber Pages, who all helped make this year’s parade a success,” Salter said.

“Santa was so kind to come out early and visit with children in the park before our parade. Our Greenville Lions were once again in the park offering coffee, hot chocolate, hot dogs and funnel cakes while Kyle Haynes and David Norrell from Q-94 provided plenty of color commentary, keeping the festive holiday tunes going as people lined up to watch the parade. We were treated to live vocal performances of Christmas classics courtesy of David and his talented daughter, Madison Castleberry. Many thanks also go to past Board of Directors member Tyler Carter for organizing the parade line up and the flow of the event.”

It took team work to make the dream of another Christmas parade come true, says Salter.

“In spite of all the extra challenges we experienced this year, it happened. It all came together so beautifully,” Salter said.

“Yes, this parade was a little different. We encouraged masks for everyone participating in and watching the parade, social distancing and staying with immediate family. We had fewer floats and maintained more distance between them. We did all this to help keep our community safe and well.”

The GACOC director applauds the work of city and county officials and the creative minds and tenacious work ethic of local business owners and employees in making the annual Christmas parade a success even in the year of COVID.

“It’s the unwaivering willingness of community members to volunteer their time and efforts to make our community a great place to be, that makes me so thankful to be a part of a wonderful community full of kind, caring people,” Salter said.

“It truly is ‘a wonderful life’ here in the Camellia City.”