Story and Photos by Jessica Isaacs | [email protected]
The Oasis Shriners of North Carolina, which encompasses more than 5,500 members across 50 counties, recently announced that the town of Blowing Rock will play host to its popular annual Spring Ceremonial and Grand Parade on June 4. This year’s parade will focus on the theme “A Salute to Our Veterans,” and will feature groups of military veterans from across the state and an impressive lineup of special guests.
In a Wednesday morning press conference at Chetola Resort, Oasis Shriners Potentate Johnny King announced the ceremonies and parade will return to the High Country this summer, making it the sixth time it’s been held here since the events began in 2009.
“We are Shriners. We are one of 196 temples, or shrine centers, in the world,” King said as he introduced the organization to a room of local leaders and press representatives. “We are the largest shrine center in the world in numbers of people.”
Chetola’s Marcia Greene and Kent Tarbutton were on hand to welcome the Shriners back to town.
King, who’s been a shriner now for 36 years, said the group enjoys the hospitality and kindness shown year after year by the Blowing Rock community.
“We have invited everybody, all 5,600 members of our organization, to come up. Kent and Marcia in previous years have shown nothing but support, support, support, and we finally made him a Shriner last year,” King said with a smile. “They’ve always just opened up the entire town for us and we think its great. We can’t get it back up here every year … but it’s been about every other year and hopefully that’s what will happen. They have done a great job of opening up their world for us.”
Beginning at 2 p.m. on June 4, the “Salute” parade will make its way through the downtown area. It will feature the Oasis Shriners’ famous mobile parade units, clowns, color guards, floats, Shrine marching bands, Snow Masonic Lodge in Boone, marching in regalia, veterans’ recognitions, leadership acknowledgements, entertainment for children, music and more.
Retired U.S. Army Major General Chuck Swannack, former commander of the 82nd Airborne Division and executive director of Speedway Children’s Charities in Concord, will lead the parade as Grand Marshall.
“He is one of the top officers, in my opinion, in recent American history of the army, and a gentleman who has served with distinction our great country for many years in a number of combat areas, including in Iraq,” Shriner and Blowing Rock resident George Wilcox said during the press conference. “We’re delighted to have a gentleman serving with us who is really very outstanding in service to his country, but also is very outstanding in his service to humanity.”
King declared this year’s event a “civic parade,” which, unlike in years past, allows the Lady Shriners, special guests and other civic groups to join the parade.
Large groups of military veterans from across the state will convene to participate, including an Honor Guard from Mooresville and American Legion Post 256 led by Blowing Rock Mayor Pro Tempore Albert Yount. Also joining the parade will be the JROTC and marching band from Watauga High School, to which the Shriners have recently made a generous financial contribution to support the purchase of band uniforms.
Special honored guests will include Appalachian State University Chancellor Sheri N. Everts, U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Blowing Rock Mayor J.B. Lawrence and North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, who will deliver a special message from Memorial Park that day. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper has also been invited to participate.
Following the parade, the Shriners will give away three giant “Fezzy” Shrine bears in a children’s drawing, and the Shrine parade units will be available for public viewing.
For more information on the Oasis Shriners, visit oasisshriners.org.
Stay tuned for updates on HCPress.com as we continue to provide parade coverage.
One of three temples in North Carolina, the Oasis Shriners began 2016 with 5,505 members across its 50-county district. The group raised $1.3 million last year to support the Shriners’ 22 hospitals, which cost more than $1 million each day to operate.
“All of these people with funny red hats, riding around in funny little cars, work a lot behind the scenes to collect money to help support those hospitals,” King said. “We’re in the business of helping children.”