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‘Tis the Season Spectacular keeps tradition alive in Salisbury and Spencer

SALISBURY — The sights along the streets of downtown Salisbury and Spencer on Wednesday were familiar.

There were blankets and lawn chairs, bundled families, sweater-vested dogs and a sea of Santa hats. There were residents on porches or their lawns, all ready and waiting for the show to begin.

The show was the new ‘Tis the Season Spectacular holiday parade, a last-minute reinvention of a 59-year parade tradition shared by the two towns.

Organizers of the 58-year-running Holiday Caravan decided in late July to end the parade. The decision followed a 2017 controversy in which representatives of PFLAG, a gay youth support group, were told they could not ride on a float.

Other local residents would immediately step up, determined that the treasured holiday tradition would live on.

And live on it did, with the crowds and family-friendly atmosphere unchanged. As those gathered waited for the show to start, many shared excited chatter about how the new “Spectacular” would compare with last year’s caravan.

“It hasn’t changed much, has it?” said one spectator as he took in the crowds.

The start of the parade was in keeping with that point of view. Members of local police and fire departments were featured, varied depending on whether you watched in Salisbury or Spencer.

The Veterans Honor Guard followed, receiving standing ovations as it passed.

Also familiar for local parades were local marching bands. This year, organizers snagged all six local high school bands: East Rowan, Carson, North Rowan, Salisbury, South Rowan and West Rowan.

Each brought its own individual sound and flair: Carson with its present-carrying color guard, and North with its Cavalier mascot.

Kids waited with bated breath for the answer to another question: Would the new parade include its coveted mountains of free candy?

The giveaways started a quarter of the way in with members of Stallings Memorial Baptist Church giving out information about their Christmas program along with candy canes.

More candy would follow, along with cups, sunglasses, pens, magnets and more.

Laughs were also in steady supply as usual, with James River Equipment’s Grinch-themed John Deeres, the Oasis Hillbillies, and even Trinity Oaks.

The senior living center’s banner was preceded by the enthusiastic Peyton Beck, complete with reindeer costume, candy canes and a mountain of energy.

Of course, there were plenty of additions under the new leadership. Several floats included live, microphoned singers and musicians — Jacob Johnson, the MoonGlows, the Trileers, and the Salisbury Swing Band. Each gave the down-home parade a sprinkling of big-city flair.

Another new touch? A focus on inclusion and diversity. Entries included a mariachi band and a Hispanic Coalition nativity. There were sororities, dignitaries, public officials and more.

PFLAG — Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays — and Salisbury Pride were each represented, their entries passing with little comment from those around them.

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