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Southern Rowan Christmas Parade delivers its hometown feel

LANDIS — Look for the yellow pants.

That was Susan Steele’s clue for finding her son Parker in Tuesday’s Southern Rowan Christmas Parade.

The yellow pants went with the Buddy the Elf costume Parker was wearing on Carson High School’s Orange & Blue Crew spirit float.

Steele had another hint for finding Parker, who knows how to ham it up.

“You’ll recognize him,” she said. “He’ll be the loudest, happiest one in the parade.”

Thousands  of people who lined the streets in Landis and China Grove also found plenty to be happy about with the 2018 edition of the Southern Rowan Christmas Parade.

First, the day was gorgeous. Second, this is the kind of parade in which you generally know a lot of the participants. Third, it’s a good way to kick off the holidays to come, starting with Thanksgiving on Thursday.

Many of the people watching can remember the days when they were part of the two-town parade, which started in Landis at 3 p.m. and China Grove at 4 p.m.

Whitney Linker, who brought her 8-year-old son, Slade, and 5-year-old daughter, London, recalled a much colder parade when she sat on the back of a car as the homecoming queen of South Rowan High School.

In other years, she marched with the high school color guard.

“I like to see everybody, and it just gets you in the Christmas spirit,” Linker said from a front-row seat near the intersection of Main Street and Ryder Avenue in Landis.

Beaver and Faye Hammond of Kannapolis were taking in their first Southern Rowan parade because they wanted to see their 9-year-old granddaughter, Hensley, a young horsewoman riding with the Phil Austin Stables entry.

Did they plan to heckle Henley as she passed by? “Oh, yeah,” Beaver said, laughing.

Erica Martin brought her foster son, Connor Johnson, to his first Southern Rowan parade Tuesday. They had attended Concord’s parade this past weekend.

“How many firetrucks are there?” Connor wanted to know.

And the answer was plenty. Toward the front of the parade, firefighting equipment from China Grove, Landis, Enochville, Locke, Faith, Atwell and Bostian Heights fire departments rolled by.

Beyond firetrucks, the parade proved to have many other manners of conveyance, including horses, buses, RVs, pickups, cars, golf carts, boats, tractors, SUVs, Jeeps, tractor-trailers and even a trolley.

Some of the vehicles were beautifully old or brilliantly new.

If participants weren’t riding in the rolling stock, they made their way down Main Street marching, flipping, jumping, dancing, kicking and clogging.

So much candy was tossed toward both sides of the street that kids thought it was Halloween all over again.

Barbara Doby, long a community force from China Grove, served as grand marshal.

There were kings and queens, Scouts, ROTC members, dance companies, youth football players and cheerleaders, homemade and professional floats, the Rowan County Veterans Honor Guard, public officials and several haunted-house entries.

Don’t forget the bands. Those participating included Carson High, South Rowan High, North Rowan High, Independence High and North Hills Christians School.

Christy Horner and her brother, Daniel Safrit, found a comfortable place along Main Street to watch for Christy’s son, Jacob, a junior clarinet player in the Carson High band.

Horner said she likes small-town parades, the kind where it’s not unusual to see people leave their seats and walk onto the street to greet somebody they know.

April Payne is a South Rowan High graduate who marched in this parade when she was a band member. Tuesday, she brought her 6-year-old son, Brayden, a guy who also likes firetrucks.

“We come a lot to this parade,” Payne said, “because we’re from this area. For us, it’s that first Christmas event.”

The Grinch made an appearance Tuesday. But he was upstaged by Santa’s arrival at the end of the parade.

As for Parker Steele’s portrayal of Buddy the Elf, his mother offered some inside information. The yellow pants needed some mending and alterations the night before, and his grandmother did the honors.

So Tuesday, Parker was ready to go through the seven levels of the Candy Cane Forest, the sea of swirly-twirly gum drops and the Lincoln Tunnel.

Luckily, he decided on the Southern Rowan Christmas Parade instead.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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