Holiday Caravan cruises through town
By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — The Holiday Caravan brought joy to thousands Wednesday afternoon and hope that the economy, and life, will improve.
“It’s been a stressful year,” said Kwentia Morris, who lost her job.
“But you forget all about that when you’re up here watching the parade,” said her friend, Cheryl McLeod.
Morris and McLeod and four other women danced and cheered on North Main Street throughout the 52nd annual parade, which rolled through Spencer and Salisbury under sunny skies but brisk temperatures.
Onlookers huddled under blankets, and winds gusting up to 20 mph wreaked havoc with some floats and marching bands.
Twelve people held tightly to a gigantic American flag, displayed as part of the Ashe County High School Husky Vanguard from West Jefferson. The band took first place.
The parade marks the start of the holiday season and kicks off holiday shopping. For Michelle McNeely, who has been out of work for two years, the caravan brings the community together.
“To see this is like a jumpstart for the new year,” said McNeely, who expects to return to Freightliner in 2012. “Things are going to get better.”
Toby Pegram was less optimistic.
“People ain’t got no money,” said Pegram, who was trying to sell inflatable toys from his cart and having no luck. “It’s a real depression, I’m telling you.”
Vendors would be lucky to make $100 during Salisbury’s parade, said Joshua Bogart, a supervisor for Pinson Novelties.
“There’s not too much money here,” Bogart said. “It’s bad.”
They’ll fare better today at Charlotte’s parade, where vendors can expect to make up to $2,000, he said.
Many people watch the Holiday Caravan year after year, making it a family tradition. Rachel Fesperman, 77, said she’s been bringing her children since they were babies.
“It’s something we really look forward to,” said Fesperman, who kept warm in a lawn chair set up inside a van.
The family hasn’t missed the parade since they started attending.
“It starts the holidays out right,” daughter Betty Barringer said.
Mark Beaver’s family has come from Mocksville for 15 years and always sets up chairs in the intersection of Liberty and North Main streets. It’s a good way to spend time together, he said.
For nearly 90 minutes, 133 units including Shriners, sports teams, politicians, beauty queens, businesses and marching bands filled downtown Salisbury with noise and holiday spirit.
“Diva! Diva!” Morris called to a friend wearing a ballgown on a float. “Merry Christmas!”
“You can’t lose hope,” she said. “You have to keep pressing on.”
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.