CONETOE — Conetoe residents got into the holiday spirit Saturday morning at the town’s second annual Christmas parade. While the parade wasn’t as big as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day fanfare in New York City, the residents of the small town of Conetoe showed their enthusiasm all the same.
“I was impressed. It was bigger than I expected. I think it’s created a lot of enthusiasm,” said Liz Whitfield, a Conetoe native who watched the parade with her daughter-in-law, Wendy McLawhorn, and her 2-year-old granddaughter, Madeline McLawhorn. Her 4-year-old grandson, Marshall McLawhorn, rode on the Penders Missionary Baptist Church float with other children.
“You’ve got a whole other generation to grow it [the parade] up,” Whitfield said. “It lets people know we’re on the map.”
If the town gave out an award for most original float, George Hopkins would have won the prize. He waved at the children on the sides of the road from his purple float, which he made from scrap metal, parts off a golf cart, and a four-wheeler.
“I make stuff about every year for the parade. Kids like little stuff like that,” Hopkins said.
Fire trucks, horses and Santa Claus were other features in the Christmas parade.
Jacalyn Davis waved at the fire department members as they passed by her on their trucks and thanked them for “keeping us safe.” The Tarboro resident called the parade “short but nice.”
“Even in the cold weather, I think they had a great turnout,” Davis said.
“I see a lot of different faces this year. Every year gets better and better,” said Conetoe Mayor Linda Ingram. She estimated between 30 and 35 units participated in this year’s parade, and the only drawback was not having a marching band.
“We had more fire trucks than we anticipated,” Ingram said. “We took a different route this year. We want to try to accommodate everybody the best way we can.” The reason for the new route was to pass by the homes of senior citizens who would not have been able to see the parade otherwise. The parade began at Conetoe Chapel Church on Factory Street and ended at the town park on Roberson Drive, where the celebration continued with a fall festival.
Bobbie Rickman and Raye Gooch were among the residents who sat in their front yard and watched the parade.
“I think it’s very needed,” said Gooch of the parade. “The little town of Conetoe used to be a booming town. It needs to be built up like it used to be.”
Jackay Pettaway, a Conetoe native, returned to her hometown on Saturday to watch the parade. She walked around with her cart of candy apples and stopped to speak to people along the parade route.
“It’s about time Conetoe did something to show its strength,” Pettaway said. “A whole lot of people do not know where Conetoe is.”
Pettaway wasn’t the only Conetoe native who came home for the parade and fall festival. Berna Worsley, who now lives in Charlotte, said she was “glad to be back in my hometown to see the progress they are making.”
“The community is working together, for one cause now,” Worsley said. “A town united.”
Rev. Richard Joyner, pastor of Conetoe Chapel Church, also commented that Saturday’s celebration brought the town together. He rode with Ingram in the parade.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for social collaboration within the community,” Joyner said. “It unites us across all boundaries.”
Ingram said the purpose of the parade and fall festival is to spur growth, something that hasn’t happened in Conetoe for a long time. She said the town’s leadership is taking things “one thing at a time and one day at a time” to strengthen and grow the community.