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‘Tis the Season Spectacular Christmas parade provides entertainment, holiday spirit

SALISBURY — Of all the sights there were to see during the ‘Tis the Season Spectacular parade on Wednesday night, Shari Graham’s favorite was the smiles on the faces of people driving through the twinkling, festively decorated downtown.

“My favorite thing has been the reactions,” Graham said. “Between the snowball fight at F&M and the mariachi band, the people’s reactions have been my favorite thing to see. We’re thrilled with it and it seems like the crowd and all of the participants are having a great time.”

Unable to host a traditional parade this year, Graham and Hen Henderlite decided to host a reverse parade, where families drove through a sparkling downtown that resembled a “mini-McAdenville.” By keeping people in their cars and entertainers spread out, Graham and Henderlite sought to make the parade COVID-19 safe.

Over the past several weeks, the parade-planning duo has been decorating downtown and arranging entertainment for the parade. Starting on Saturday, Henderlite said they placed 400 wreaths on downtown doors and windows.

From the start of the parade in the parking lot of Wallace and Graham to the finish at Horah Street, attendees were entertained with waving Santas, roaring dinosaurs, acrobats and more. There were scrooges, grinches and roaming elves. Tim Elliot and his band sang on the square and young dancers performed routines in front of Koco Java.

Three hot air balloons were stationed around downtown and one parade watcher remarked that he’d lived in Salisbury for 60 years, but had never seen a hot air balloon downtown.

“We really wanted diversity in not only cultures but in musical performers,” Henderlite said. “We have Mariachi bands, we have drag queens on South Main, we have a live nativity.”

Graham said they “tried to recognize everyone and how they celebrate the holidays.”

Some of the people who drove through the parade also decked out their cars with wreaths and lights.

Many downtown store owners took the opportunity to decorate their windows and dress up in holiday gear to greet customers and parade goers. Janet Pyatt, the owner of The Backcountry Peddler, set up a display outside of her shop that mimicked the inside of Elizabeth Maxwell Steele’s tavern, an 18th century tavern that sat at the corner of North Main Street and West Council Street over two hundred years ago.

Pyatt said Steele hosted and gave money to Continental Army Gen. Nathanael Greene when he stopped at the tavern while passing through town in 1781.

“Among those who are into the history of this town, that’s a very important and well-known story,” Pyatt said. “Since my store is located right here, and her tavern was within eyesight, it made an obvious thing to portray.”

In front of F&M Bank, Steve Fisher and the banks’ staff and their family members tossed cotton “snowballs” at each other as Frosty the Snowman waved. Fisher said the bank wanted to participate in the parade any way they could while wearing masks and trying to remain socially distant.

“We’re very happy to have this group out here,” Fisher said. “I was excited to see how many people wanted to come out and get into the spirit of the season. We’ve had a lot of reasons not to be thankful. It’s a great time for us to stop and remember everything we still have to be thankful for. I’m glad we’re getting the opportunity as a community to do that.”

Fisher said he was impressed at the parade Graham and Henderlite were able to put together.

“Hats off to Shari and Hen for dreaming this up,” Fisher said. “It’s amazing. They’re unbelievable.”

After checking in at Wallace and Graham, groups of cars went through the parade in 30-minute intervals. Graham and Henderlite said everything went “extremely smooth” with lining cars up and sending them through and from what they heard, everyone was happy with the check-in process.

The only complaint Graham and Henderlite said they heard was that people wanted the parade route to keep going.

“The only thing I have heard is that people wish it could’ve been longer,” Henderlite said. “So did we.”

Graham and Henderlite said the parade couldn’t have been possible without their sponsors, which included Food Lion, Wallace and Graham, New Sarum Brewing, GCS Global Solutions, Cathy Griffin Century 21 Towne and Country, F&M Bank, The Bernheims Family, David Post, Catawba College, Godley Garden Center, Venue Services/Virtual Sounds, and WSAT.

Henderlite wasn’t ready to think about next year’s parade yet, but did say the drive-thru model could be used again.

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