For out-of-towner Stacy Dennis, the Christmas parade in Athens is an event she looks forward to every holiday season as she travels throughout the Tennessee Valley.
Dennis, a Nashville vendor who sells light-up toys, said she admires the camaraderie and spirit of the Athens crowd.
“I have been to this parade for the past 20 years,” she said. “Rain showers, snow or cold weather, the people of Athens always come out and have a great time.”
Despite being rescheduled from Dec. 5 to Thursday due to inclement weather, the 10th Reliance Bank Christmas Parade still attracted thousands of people along the route, with families huddling together under thick blankets.
“We’re really proud of how it turned out this year, and it all worked out great,” said Regina Christopher, parade organizer for Reliance Bank. “It was the perfect weather for a Christmas parade.”
Christopher, whose committee begins preparing for the parade in August, said a record 170-plus entrants registered for this year’s parade, themed “A Storybook Christmas.” She said more than 150 participated in the judging despite the date change.
Thousands of people stood or tailgated on Hobbs Street, throughout downtown and along Jefferson Street on a clear and windless night, with temperatures dipping into the low 30s. The parade started promptly at 6 p.m. from Athens High School and ended about two hours later at Hometown Grocery.
The holiday-themed pageantry had everything from high school marching bands and cheerleaders to a political candidate dressed as an imprisoned Grinch and firefighters in full turnout gear walking alongside rescue pumpers and ladder trucks with flashing sirens.
For the ninth time in 10 years, the Friends of Ripley float captured the $1,000 grand prize for the best overall float.
The Ripley float, which took about three weeks to complete and required the collaboration of several families from the Clements community, won for its homage to “The Year Without a Santa Claus.”
The group’s colorful float showcased a dancing “Snow Miser” and “Heat Miser,” giant elves, plenty of lights and the zydeco-influenced holiday sounds from the animated TV special’s soundtrack.
Kristen Black, who attributed the float concept to Victoria Black, said the group enjoys the fellowship of designing and building the float.
“We just like the getting together and visiting with each other,” said Kristen. “It’s a group of families and friends that get together at the Drop Farm (in Clements) to work on the float.”
First place went to McCurry Motors for its crowd-pleasing Charlie Brown storyline and second place to Poplar Creek Missionary Baptist Church for a float with a replica living room and fireplace and church members wearing books with sandwich-board covers and backings.
The News Courier won third for its “Breaking News” theme, which included an old-time typewriter, tongue-in-cheek headlines and a life-sized Elf on the Shelf.
Students with Limestone County Chamber of Commerce’s Youth Leadership won the best car award and “Christmas on Horseback” claimed the prize for best horse.
Limestone school Superintendent Dr. Tom Sisk, who rode in a 1957 Chevrolet convertible near the front of the parade, served as this year’s grand marshal.