Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

Local News

December 17, 2013

Christmas parade thrills Rusk residents, though turnout lower than previous year

RUSK — Although chilled by the cold, damp weather, Rusk residents Shawn and Trisha Harper knew exactly where they wanted to be Saturday: On the Cherokee County Courthouse square, watching the local Christmas parade.

After all, it’s a tradition the couple has kept throughout their marriage.

“We come here every year,” Harper explained, as her husband nodded in agreement. “We were at the Jacksonville parade earlier this week and are thinking about going to Gallatin if it doesn’t rain.”

Trisha grew up attending parades since her childhood, and has been bringing her 11-year-old daughter Victoria since she was a tot.

“We always come to the parade,” she said. “It’s part of a holiday tradition that starts with setting up our tree the day after Thanksgiving, right up through New Year’s, when we have a meal with cabbage and black-eyed peas.”

Victoria, who with her buddy Emily Pierce, was keeping an eye out for the floats whose participants pitched candy into the sidelines, said her favorite part was watching the horses trot past.

“I’m a big fan of animals,” she said.

Emily, on the other hand, liked seeing the different vehicles, especially the cars. “Old cars are my favorite,” she admitted, adding that she enjoyed watching different floats pass by and just being able to hang out with the Harpers.

“I really enjoy this time with my friends and family, just hanging out together,” the 11-year-old said.

Because of the change in dates and conflict with other scheduled events – Rusk High School held Trots for Tots to raise funds and toys for the annual Toys for Tots program that same morning – the crowd wasn’t full as previous years, the Harpers said.

“Last year, you couldn’t even see the backs of the cars parked along the street,” Shawn said, as his wife guessed that this year’s parade only drew about 1/3 of its usual audience.

However, she added, her wish was that parade-goers would enjoy the bond these types of events fostered among families by allowing them a chance to be together.

“I hope they get a sense of how important family is, the time they spend together,” Trisha said. “It’s not always about getting presents.”

This year’s parade – rescheduled from a week ago, due to inclement weather – drew fewer participants than the previous year, said Rusk Chamber of Commerce event coordinator Connie Parsons.

“Our band was in a band competition, plus there was a fundraiser for the Toys for Tots at the school – and something (going on) at the Civic Center, and a tournament at the golf course – there was just so much going on all over town” that crowds were pulled in different directions, impacting parade attendance, she said.

“And the weather did not change,” she pointed out. “All these events had a big impact, so I'm thinking that sometimes, consistency is the best – in the nine years I've been (at the Chamber), we've never rescheduled anything. Of course, we've never had bad weather like that one day, then good weather the next!”

The Rusk Christmas parade was originally scheduled Dec. 7, and organizers decided to tie in a Pearl Harbor theme, “Remember when; remember them, Christmas of '41, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.”

Jim Cromwell, a military veteran who is a member of the Cherokee County Historical Commission, served as grand marshal, escorted by a volunteer pool formed by the Rusk Garden Club and the local Lion's Club.

Other military presence included a military jeep bearing a woman – dressed warmly in a stars and stripes-themed sweater – who sang patriotic songs, as well as a classic truck with “THE SARGE” emblazoned on the door and photos of a local family whose members still carry on the tradition: “Our family still fights for your freedom,” read detailed bodywork on the truck.

The winning float was entered by Branded by Christ Cowboy Church, with second place goimng to The Arbors Healthcare and Rehab.

The third place entry was a float by Discount Computer Depot.

Recognition also was given to windows decorated for the event.

The Cherokee County Historical Commission, located at 138 W. 5th Street took top honors with its display, while Chapman's Pharmacy – 108 E. 5th – received second place with a Barbie doll homage to the USO.

Texas National Bank, at 484 N. Main, received third place, while J&J Jewelers, 136 S. Main, received honorable mention.

“The judge told me they were all really great,” Parsons said.

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