KANNAPOLIS – It’s not easy being in a parade, at least not the first time.
“I’m not a shy person,” said Mark Hattrich, owner of Cici’s Pizza franchises in Kannapolis and the surrounding area.
Still, he said, it’s difficult to be “out front,” as he put it.
His and other businesses, bands and organizations filled out the 125 entries in this year’s Kannapolis Christmas Parade.
The 75th annual installment Saturday night brought crowds downtown.
As usual, the first lawn chairs began appearing on the median of West Avenue in the heart of town before lunchtime.
It’s impossible to gauge the crowd, but Hattrich said he expected to hand out 6,000 buy-one, get-one-free coupons.
“I love the people,” Hattrich said. “It gives me that ability to be out there. It’s not about me being seen ... it’s about hanging out with them for a little while.”
As the floats lined up, walkers and band members got their lights on.
One of the Cabarrus Events Association’s rules for the Kannapolis parade is that every entry — human or animal, float or car — must have lights on it.
Taylor Szakal had hers on before it was dark.
She and her grandmother, Susan, were among some 40 people who rode in the West Point Baptist Church bus or walked alongside, handing out candy canes and flyers telling the Christmas story.
The first time she was in a parade, “I was scared,” Taylor Szakal said.
“You were excited!” said Susan.
Taylor’s grandmother said she’d been in the Kannapolis Christmas Parade more times than she can remember.
“When my husband and I first moved to Kannapolis, we were on the YMCA float with her daddy, and he was just a toddler,” Susan said.
The best part?
“Seeing the children when you give them the candy canes,” Taylor said.
Christmas parades traditionally are meant to spur holiday shopping.
For Downtown Kannapolis, Inc. — one of the groups hoping to boost business in the city — the parade was a chance to get people clapping.
Their float had a rolling live performance by the Grass Strings, a local bluegrass group.
Once the parade finished, the band stayed on the float and performed next to the Lee Clothing Warehouse.
Signs outside said the store planned to stay open until 10 p.m. with a special sale.
This year’s parade featured five marching bands, capped as usual by the A.L. Brown High School Marching Wonders.
Sarah Taylor, of Kannapolis, is a South Rowan graduate. Since South’s band wasn’t in the parade, she said, she picked Carson High’s band as her favorite.
But if South Rowan had been in the parade, she said, it would have been her favorite.
Brenda Drye, executive director of Cabarrus Events Association, said this year’s parade was the success organizers had hoped it would be.
Melanie Keziah, owner of downtown clothing store Virginia’s, added, “The most successful element was the weather.”
Keziah said the parade, as usual, brought additional shoppers downtown, starting as early as 3:30 p.m. – about three hours before the beginning of the parade reached downtown.
“It’s the morale of the people,” Keziah said. “They just feel the spirit, and it brings people to town.”
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.