Sunday afternoon on Georgia Avenue included plenty of two-legged traffic, with the North Augusta Lions Club playing host to dozens of musicians, dancers, athletes, fire trucks and oversized elves for the club's annual Christmas parade.
The civic club's tradition dates back more than 50 years, as the Lions have been single-handedly running the event since the late 1960s. A few years prior to that, the parade went over the Savannah River, on the James U. Jackson Memorial Bridge, with mileage in both Georgia and South Carolina.
This year's procession had 81 entries and more than 1,340 participants representing a variety of schools, teams, clubs, charities, business and churches, and among the first few travelers were some of North Augusta's most seasoned residents: Lions Club members Les Gotschall, Jack Kendall, Verlon McDowell, Jim and Faye Purcell, Bill Roose and Cobie Williams. They were the grand marshals, and among them, their membership years (as Lions) number 257.
Faye Purcell, referring to the parade, noted, "The Lions Club really takes pride in being able to do this. This is our gift to the community."
Top honors in the Sunday event, which had a theme of "All I Want for Christmas is...," went to Kenneth Shuler School of Cosmetology, in the commercial category; and the North Augusta High School National Art Society, among the non-commercial entries.
Following were Hall Family Dentistry and Rhythm and Class Dance Studio, in that order, among commercial entries; and the Hispanic-American Cultural Association of the CSRA and Belvedere Elementary School's student council, in that order, in the non-commercial category.
Debbie Vaughn, the student council's advisor, gave the parade a thumbs-up review. "The kids had a blast, and our theme was about the military family, and ... how we're at home celebrating Christmas while our soldiers are overseas, and that we need to remember them, so we handed out little soldiers with a card on it, for people to put that soldier up and pray for them over Christmas, to remember them."
The school's float, with a listing of "family, friends and freedom" as things worthy of Christmas wishes, included pictures of two school parents who are currently on active duty in the Army. "The kids were ... extremely excited to do it, because they really bought into the theme ... They loved it, and some of them got a little emotional, too," Vaughn said.
The school's rolling creation was divided into halves, divided by a wall. One side included a cozy family scene in a Christmas setting, and the other represented soldiers in the field, reading letters from home in a nighttime situation overseas, with such symbols as Purple Hearts and other medals, as well as yellow ribbons.
The parade's sponsoring group is the oldest civic organization in North Augusta, dating back to beginnings in 1936. The club, McDowell said, took over the parade around 1965 after the North Augusta Jaycees stopped running it.
Dena Riley, First Baptist Church of North Augusta's pastoral care minister, was one one of the parade's judges. She commented, "We thoroughly enjoyed it. Quite tickled by how creative they were. They did a good job."
Also comprising the judge corps were Rick Meyer, director of the North Augusta Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism; Rachelle Moody, interim director, City of North Augusta; Elizabeth Merritt, executive director of Community Ministry of North Augusta; and Steve McElmurray, owner of Parks Pharmacy.
Lindsey Hodges contributed to this story.