For more than three decades, it’s been as much of a harbinger of the upcoming holiday season in these parts as the extra supplies of turkey and stuffing in local stores are for Thanksgiving. The Grandin Village Holiday Christmas Parade, sponsored by the Grandin Village Business Association, brings several thousand people (perhaps, no one knows) from the Grandin Court and Raleigh Court neighborhoods out into the streets, while thousands more line the sidewalks to cheer them on.
There were the usual marching bands and local dignitaries – but there were also countless young children being pulled in wagons and strollers by their parents – with many dressing up as reindeer or one of Santa’s elves. On a fairly warm morning last Saturday the Kazim Temple clowns kicked things off, with “O Come All Ye Faithful” blaring in a recorded loop from one of the crazy vehicles they drive.
The Patrick Henry High School Air Force Jr. ROTC drill unit lent some pomp and polish to the event. The PH band and the Woodrow Wilson Middle School supplied much of the festive holiday music.
There were Cub Scout packs, Girls and Boy Scout troops and dogs for adoption from the Star City Greyhound Rescue organization in Salem. Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op, the KIVA outdoor kids group, Vikings of the Valley, Virginia Heights Elementary School, Roanoke Children’s Theatre and the Star City Pizzazz baton twirling troupe also took part.
There were also the more commercial floats and marchers, since the Grandin Village Holiday Christmas Parade also gives local merchants a chance to do a little free advertising as they get in the holiday spirit. Chef Josh Smith from Local Roots restaurant hauled a wheelbarrow full of fresh produce; others held up letters that spelled out Pops, the name of an ice cream shop on Memorial Avenue. There were even folks dressed liked pizza slices and hot dogs, representing the 7-11 on Grandin Road.
The Urban Gypsy gallery folks teamed with art students from Katherine Devine’s classes (she shares the same building on Grandin Road) to create a float for the children’s parade. “The whole experience was delightful, from scavenging cardboard from the [Roanoke Natural Foods] Co-op recycling bin, to adding last minute final touches with my students,” said Devine, one of the better known artists in Roanoke and a fairly new resident of Grandin Village.
The float was dubbed “A Cardboard Horse of a Different Color,” by Devine, who credited art students Billie Byrd and Chloe Gardner for their help. “It was really fun seeing so many familiar faces both in the parade – and along the sidewalks,” added Devine.
Roanoke City Mayor David Bowers, City Council members Bill Bestpitch, David Trinkle and Sherman Lea also marched in the parade. City Manager Chris Morrill was a participant as well, sporting a mustache he is growing for a charity event during “No Shave November.” (His wife can’t wait for him to shave it off, Morrill reported.)
As is tradition, the marching band from nearby Patrick Henry High School brought up the rear of the parade – right before Santa Claus made his annual appearance, waving to the crowd from high atop a Roanoke City Fire & Rescue hook and ladder unit. Afterwards many parade goers spilled into the CUPS coffee house and other businesses along Grandin Ave. “The whole experience left me really grateful to be newly located in such a warm and supportive community,” said Devine.