All systems are go for the first ‘Tis the Season Spectacular holiday parade

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 9, 2018

SALISBURY —  The ‘Tis the Season Spectacular holiday parade just might have a chance of living up to its name — especially the “spectacular” part.

Shari Graham, Henrietta Henderlite and their committee have been working tirelessly to put together a wide array of entries for the Nov. 21 parade, which will go through downtown Spencer and Salisbury.

The lineup will include every high school band in Rowan County and a “Holiday Court” float featuring the homecoming kings and queens from each of the six schools.

The parade, which replaces the longstanding Holiday Caravan, promises several other bands and musical performers, at least six Shriner entries, 21 professional floats, many community floats, the Carolina Panthers’ Sir Purr mascot, Miss North Carolina, and Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus.

As with the Holiday Caravan, the ‘Tis the Season Spectacular will be the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, starting at 2 p.m. in Spencer and 3 p.m. in Salisbury.

This year’s parade also aims to deliver on diversity, with the Latino, African-American and Asian communities well represented.

“Shari and I felt it was important to make the parade reflective of our community,” Henderlite said, “since the city said it was a community parade.”

That goal goes with the committee’s mission statement, which speaks of providing a parade “that is reflective of our community and captures the holiday spirit, provides high-quality entertainment, and emotes feelings of excitement to participants and viewers alike.”

The window for accepting parade applications has closed. Reserved seats (at $5 each) along the parade routes in Spencer or Salisbury are still available by calling 704-638-3100 or visiting the Rowan County Visitors Center at 204 E. Innes St.

Some of the musical acts lined up include the Moon Glows, Nashville singer Jacob Johnson, the Salisbury Swing Band, a mariachi band and the Shriners bagpipers.

Look for an Asian golden dragon, salsa dancers, go-karts, high school ROTC units, flag teams, cheerleaders, the Livingstone College band, the Independence High School band, Lee Street theatre “Scrooge” performers, the N.C. Transportation Museum’s “Polar Express” entry, deejays and plenty of interesting vehicles.

Grand marshal Nancy Stanback will be riding in a classic car. Henderlite says Stanback is the perfect choice for grand marshal given what she and her late husband, Bill, have meant to the community.

“She has been fabulous,” Graham adds.

Overall, the parade expects to have 115 to 120 entries.

Another new aspect of the parade is that it will be what Graham and Henderlite call a “judge-free zone.” There will be no judging of floats, bands, queens or anything else.

Graham recalls her husband Bill’s reaction to that decision: “Bill said, ‘Shari, this is a celebration, not a competition.'”

Shari Graham had the idea for the Holiday Court. She and Henderlite said the young men and women who are chosen kings and queens by their schools often have little time in the spotlight when they are recognized at football homecoming games.

The Holiday Court will give them added exposure, especially during a season when some of the homecoming games were played on different nights than Friday because of the fall’s stormy weather.

Months ago, after the organization behind the Holiday Caravan said it would not sponsor a parade this year, Graham and Henderlite volunteered to head a committee that would fill the void.

They said Thursday they just want to get things on track and move things down the road.

“I’m very proud of what we’ve done in a very short time,” Henderlite said.

Banners promoting the parade started going up in the downtowns Thursday. “It was like Christmas to us,” Henderlite says.

The women also spent time Thursday with Virtual Sounds and WSAT radio’s Buddy Poole, making arrangements for what will happen Nov. 21 at the Square in Salisbury.

Poole plans to broadcast live during the day, including what the women are calling a two-hour “pre-game” from the Square, starting at 1 p.m. Henderlite said the parade will have a Macy’s touch, with Poole conducting interviews as entries pass by.

Hotwire Communications will televise the parade, and a recording will be shown on Access 16 channel. The parade will be live-streamed on YouTube and available on YouTube to watch later.

Part of Graham and Henderlite’s job was to line up sponsors. At first, they asked why a parade committee needs to raise $20,000 to $30,000. What costs money?

They learned parades have to pay for things such as Sir Purr, Miss North Carolina, certain acts, buses, bus drivers, incorporation papers, insurance, Shriner Hospital donations, professional floats, signs and banners.

Food Lion will be the main sponsor.

Graham and Henderlite already are thinking the “Spectacular” will have a lot more potential in coming years as the Bell Tower Green park is developed in downtown Salisbury.

They envision people watching the parade, then moving to the park for tree-lightings, food and other festivities ushering in the holidays.

The women are much more accustomed to organizing fundraisers and helping plan weddings. So when people come up to them and say they’ve saved Christmas, it’s a humbling thing, Graham says.

They haven’t ruled out being involved again next year.

“Putting on a parade is a lot different than putting on a fundraiser,” Henderlite says.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263. For information on reserved seating, sponsors and other details, go to