After all the turkey had been gobbled down, and the pumpkin pies had been finished off, the holiday season got into full swing on Sunday afternoon for Franklin's annual Christmas parade. This year's theme, “A Country Christmas,” reminded all generations of the things that they love most about the holiday season.
With more than 54 entries into the float decorating contest, competition was stiff this year. Hickory Knoll Methodist Church won “Best of Theme” with grandma in her rocking chair in front of the fireplace, listening to Christmas tunes on Grandpa's dulcimer. Grand Champion was awarded to All Service Heating & Air for their impressive recreation of Grandma's house at Christmas time. Outdoor 76 was awarded “Most Original” for donating their mountain bikes to help pull Santa's sleigh.
For the second year in a row, the parade collected canned foods for CareNet, and while donations were down this year, five boxes of food were collected and donated.
Leading the parade this year was Grand Marshal Terry Bradley, who retired as Franklin's long-time police chief earlier this year. For the first year, the parade took a new route off of Main Street. According to Linda Harbuck, director of Franklin's Chamber of Commerce, the parade route change was necessary because the parade was no longer allowed to organize and set up at its usual location.
“We were told after last year's parade that we would not be able to stage the parade on the property that had been used for years on the Highlands Road,” said Harbuck. “We had to find an alternate route for the parade, so we lined up using the Town Hall parking lot and the space behind it on Church Street.”
Harbuck noted that since the property owner did not want the parade staged in its usual location, there was less space available this year for floats to organize and set up. “Because we had to change the route and did not have as much space to coordinate the staging of the parade, we asked the fire departments to limit their fire trucks to one per station to allow each station to have a truck in the parade,” explained Harbuck. “Some stations decided that since one truck would not allow enough space for the whole department to participate in the parade, that instead of picking and choosing who was able to ride the truck or not, they chose not to have a truck in the parade.”
The new route and lack of fire trucks were two of the concerns that community members had about this year's parade. “I think we need to go back to the other way; the kids missed not seeing all the fire trucks and hearing the sirens; the parade was not as good as other years.” Hazel Norris posted on the Macon County News Facebook page. “The floats were to slow to much space in between each other this was my last year if it keep it this way.”
Harbuck noted that there were no new rules about the fire truck sirens and that she was not sure why there seemed to be a lack of sirens this year. “We just asked the fire departments to wait until the fire trucks were off of Main Street to use the sirens because the noise reverberates between the buildings and we have had complaints in the past,” said Harbuck. “Once the trucks were clear of Main Street, they could have played the sirens whenever they wanted.”
Several people took to social media to complain about the spacing of the floats in this year's parade. “The parade seemed really quiet compared to other parades I have been to and there were extremely long spaces in this one for some reason,” posted Michelle Hollie. “At one time we watched a float go by and nearly 10 minutes passed before the next thing came down the hill, very odd for a parade but still enjoyed it!”
Some people noted that they counted as much as 15 minutes between floats. According to Harbuck, there was no reason for the breaks. “I don't know why there were breaks in the parade,” said Harbuck. “That is not something we can control. We sent the floats out like we do each year. I am not sure if there was an issue with traffic in some spots or if individual floats had to stop for whatever reasons, but there shouldn't have been any long breaks.”
Those who attended also suggested that there should be more music. As Harbuck explained, it is up to members of the community to choose what they want on their floats. Music is permitted on all floats, and has even been encouraged in past years. “I agree that music adds to the excitement on the parade,” said Harbuck. “We encourage the floats to play music and one year even offered a prize for best music, but it is up to the floats what they want to do.”
Another change to this year's parade was not allowing candy to be thrown from the floats to the people in attendance. “People who have filmed the parade in the past had shown us footage of children running in the streets for candy, some of which came close to getting under the wheels of vehicles in the parade,” said Harbuck. “We couldn't ignore the safety issue with throwing candy and wanted to make sure we keep everyone safe. We did encourage all the floats to have walkers to pass out candy, and from what I saw, there seemed to be a lot of candy being handed out.”
Harbuck said that the Chamber of Commerce will continue to listen to the community input on the parade and work to improve it for next year. As of yet, she is unsure about the route for the next year's event, noting that will be dictated by the space available to stage the parade.