A former Trion mayor and military veteran is the grand marshal for Summerville’s annual Christmas Parade that starts at 7 p.m.
The Summerville Parade Committee selected 96-year-old Hoyt Williams to kick off the parade. Williams served in WW II, ran his own business, was elected as mayor in Trion and continues to work at the local Walmart.
“There are so many people that suggested him. Everybody enjoyed being greeted at Walmart by Mr. Hoyt,” Summerville Main Street Director Susan Locklear said.
The parade is a city event. However, it draws people from throughout the county to line Commerce Street.
“It’s the City of Summerville’s parade, but the whole community is coming out to enjoy it,” Locklear said. ‘And kids will get the chance to see Santa Claus.”
This year’s parade theme is “Home for Christmas.” It was selected by people on Facebook, Locklear said.
5:30 p.m. – Small floats arrive at high school staging area. Entrances and drop offs only from Hwy. 100 for ALL entries. No entrance from Hwy. 114.
6:00 p.m. – Marching/Walking units line up at Ingles parking lot near U.S. 27. All big trucks and tractor trailers line up at Rec. Dept. ball field parking lot.
6:15 p.m. – All units in position and floats will be judged.
6:30 p.m. – Horses should be lined up at tennis court area. All horse trailers to park at AGL parking lot.
6:45 p.m. – Units pull out of Chattooga High School lot.
7:00 p.m. – Parade begins.
Summerville Main Street will present live musical entertainment in front of the Chattooga County Courthouse beginning at 5 p.m. until the start of the parade. Downtown businesses and restaurants invite the public to shop and enjoy a meal before or after the parade.
The city continues to seek church groups, civic organizations, clubs, schools, and businesses to participate with floats and various parade entries. Only 30 entries have signed up so far this year.
As hundreds of people gather along the downtown Summerville corridor Monday evening, they’ll be partaking in a ritual that is not only decades old, but one that has an uncertain start date. Despite its popularity, local historians are not sure when it started.
A survey of newspapers from the late 1940s fails to mention a Christmas parade. Instead a group known as the Summerville Retail Merchants Association would string colored Christmas lights along the downtown corridor to celebrate the Yule season. But yet, there isn’t any mention of a parade.
The conception of the parade might have started out of economic motives, according to local historians. One article stated downtown businesses would remain open after the parade, so people could shop.
If there was a possible year for the local parade’s origin, then it might have been held at 6 p.m. on Dec. 11, 1953. A full banner newspaper headline running across the top of the front-page states, “Santa Coming to Town Friday.”
It’s followed with an article telling parents to bring their children to see Santa Claus in person for a “thrill of their lives.”
Although that edition contains the first reference to a parade, it’s not certain if another Christmas parade was held in the 1940s or earlier.
The author of the 1953 article provided no clues if this was the first parade or a continuation. Words like “first-ever” or “new” never appeared in that article.
Despite the article’s vagueness, the event was well attended and encouraged the Retail Association to have another one the next year.
That following year’s article created more doubt than answers about the parade’s starting date. Whether it was intended to sensationalize the upcoming 1954 parade or not, the announcement created doubt.
“. . . Slated to be the biggest Christmas parade in the history of Chattooga County,” the 1954 article states.
The author of that article also failed to state the origins of the parade.
Articles throughout the 60’s and 70’s show the parade changed over the years. Often it was held on different dates and times. For example:
* In 1952, it was at 4:30 p.m. on a Friday.
* In 1963, it took place at 11 a.m. on a Saturday.
* In 1964, it took place at 2 p.m. on a Saturday.
* In 1973, it took place in November and on a Friday.
The longest running tradition, however, is the current time of the parade starting at 7 p.m. on the first Monday in December.
Even the sponsor of the event has changed. The Retail Merchants controlled the parade until 1973 when the Chattooga County Civic Organization took over. The Summerville Merchant Association faded and gave way to a group that went beyond the city limits.
Somewhere along the way, the Civic Organization handed over the parade responsibilities to the Chattooga County Chamber of Commerce. Then in the 2000s, the chamber gave the duties to the City of Summerville.
Even the parade route has changed over time. The first few years, the parade started on the south end, traveled north, and then did a U-turn and came back through town. Now the parade travels in one direction – northbound.
A second change is the appearance of Santa Claus. Currently he arrives on a float decorated by the City of Summerville. Years ago, he might have arrived in a bucket truck or on the back of a fire truck.
Santa and Smokey the Bear are about the only two characters that have remained a constant at the parade. Back in the 1950s, parades featured a different set of characters. Those included:
* Ole King Cole
* Jack and Jill
* Wizard of Oz.
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Trophies will be awarded by the Summerville Recreation Department for the top three float entries and prize monies in the amount of $250 for first place, $100 for second place, and $75 for third place will be awarded by Summerville Main Street.
The parade entry fee is $25 and registration is still open at the Summerville Recreation Department through 3 p.m. on Dec. 2. To register as a participant or for additional information contact the Summerville Recreation Department at 706-859-0910.