By Harley Nefe
Watauga County Parks and Recreation saw over 1,300 smiling faces of people who visited its drive-thru Christmas parade on Dec. 12.
Family and friends were able to enjoy the beauty and spirit of the holiday season from the comfort, care and warmth of their cars and had the opportunity to listen to holiday music while they followed a route to experience the different exhibits of parade floats and entertainers. These vendors were set up at the Watauga Community Recreation Center parking lot, located at 231 Complex Drive in Boone from 11 a.m. until a little after 1 p.m.
The parade was supposed to end at 1 p.m. However, it went over in time, and everybody was more than willing to stay the extra time to make sure all the cars that came were able to see the parade.
The drive-thru parade had 40 floats and exhibits from vendors distanced six feet apart from each other in their own parking spots for visitors to see, ranging from dance groups, to churches, to horses, to businesses and a live remote from a local radio station. Santa was also present and was the last stop on the parade route for everyone to see.
“Thank you to all the 40 vendors that were out there that made this happen and made it a real drive-thru parade and all of the folks that were lined up in the parking lot to make it happen,” said Keron Poteat, Recreation Specialist II for Watauga County Parks and Recreation. “Thank you to our gift card donors. We couldn’t have done it without the collaboration and all of the businesses, vendors, volunteers and Boone Police Department.”
Boone Police Department helped direct traffic, as a total of 386 cars came to the event.
Poteat said having the Boone Police Department help direct traffic was a game changer. In the beginning, it was a little crazy as the roads got backed up, but once cars started flowing into the parade, things began to move along and everyone was pleased.
“They did a great job,” Poteat said. “Everybody in all the different parking lots and directing traffic — it was great.”
Watauga County Parks and Recreation Director Stephen Poulos also said the event was great.
“The parade was wonderful. We are so appreciative of the community’s support,” Poulos said. “I’m so appreciative of Keron and the entire staff of doing such a great job, and it was a wonderful special day. Obviously with the pandemic and the Town of Boone and Town of Blowing Rock not being able to have the annual parades this year, we were able to kind of fill that void a little bit. It was a great fun day in the High Country.”
Poteat and Poulos said they both saw a lot of smiles at the event, even from the Grinch.
Watauga County Commissioner Charlie Wallin, who was dressed as the Grinch, was one of the vendors at the event.
“I was glad Parks and Rec was able to pull that off so that everybody could still have a parade, even though we couldn’t have a normal parade,” Wallin said. “I thought it was a great idea, and it worked perfectly. People seemed to be happy, and we had a lot of people show up, and it was just a lot of fun and to see people happy and all the happy faces. It was good just to see people happy and excited about seeing something, and it was a lot of fun.”
The Grinch was stationed next to the Appalachian Rhythm Clogging and Dance group during the parade.
Ashley Cook, who is the owner and certified clogging and hip hop instructor of Appalachian Rhythm, said she initially thought the drive-thru parade would be the same as a regular parade with the audience moving instead of the floats; however, this was not the case.
“When we started dancing, we did it so many more times than we would have normally done it in a parade, and I guess I didn’t account for the fact that everybody is in their own car instead of sitting or standing in rows in a parade, so it was so much fun,” Cook said. “It was awesome. Our dancers had a great time. I think I underestimated how exhausted I would feel later, but it was totally worth it.”
Another vendor at the event was Boone Realty. Scott Warren who is the Broker in Charge said with a match from Boone Realty and one of their clients/friends, they raised $3,062 that they are donating to The Hospitality House.
For vendors, there was also a competition for the floats based on different categories. The winners and their prizes were as follows:
Best Festive Entertainment: The Carolina Snowbelles (Wendy’s Combo Meals)
Most Original Float: NC License Plate Agency (Ransom Gift Certificate)
All Up in the Feels of Christmas: Boone Area Chamber of Commerce (Bella’s Gift Certificate)
For more photos and videos of the drive-thru Christmas parade, vist Watauga County Parks and Recreation’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Watauga-County-Parks-and-Recreation-232565740490593.
Parade exhibitors included:
Watauga County Schools
High Country Dance Studio
Medi Home Health & Hospice
Laurel Gordon & Co
New River Light & Power
Boone Chamber of Commerce
Appalachian Rhythm Clogging and Dance
Charlie Wallin County Commissioner
Girl Scout Troop 10289
Boone VFW Post 7031
High Country Young Life
Grace Lutheran Church
Hampton’s Body Shop
Sole Impact Studios
Harvest House Dance Studio
Mast General Store
Rumple Memorial Presbyterian Church
Shannon Shanely’s TEACKS Pandemic School Pod
High Country Soccer Association
Watauga Co License Plate Agency
The Foley Center at Chestnut Ridge Liberty Healthcare
DJ Trevor Owens
Watauga County Parks & Recreation
Photos by Ken Ketchie