COPPERHILL, Tenn. – History is synonymous with life here in southern Appalachia, and perhaps nowhere is history more apparent in our area than in the Copper Basin region of north Georgia and east Tennessee.
A large part of that deep-rooted history continued Saturday afternoon, Dec. 2, on the streets of McCaysville, Georgia, and Copperhill, Tennessee, as the 59th annual Christmas Parade delighted hundreds of festive onlookers lining the streets and bridges of the twin cities.
Each year, the Kiwanis Club of Copperhill sponsors the parade, and as Howard Jabaley, the local Kiwanis chapter president, explained, this is a tradition that goes back a very long time. Though there has been a break or two through the years, one being during the early 1940s while WWII was taking place, the parade, and the Kiwanis Club’s participation, traces its roots all the way back to 1923, according to Jabaley.
“We look forward to it every year,” Jabaley said of the Kiwanis Club’s involvement in the Holiday tradition. As for this year’s turnout, Jabaley stated, “We were really surprised at the number of people.”
This year, McCaysville Police Chief Michael Earley kicked the event off by leading the way down West Tennessee Avenue, Blue Ridge Drive and eventually making the turn down Ocoee Street and into the Volunteer State. Close behind in a shiny silver convertible were McCaysville Mayor Thomas Seabolt, Copperhill Mayor Kathy Stewart and Ducktown Mayor Doug Collins tossing handfuls of candy to excited young parade goers.
According to Collins, years ago, the parade would make its rounds in the twin cities and then pack up and head north three miles on Hwy. 68 to downtown Ducktown to give the residents there an annual Holiday display.
“All in all everyone seemed to enjoy it (this year),” Collins said of the parade. Speaking of the importance of continuing the parade’s tradition, Collins stressed, “It’s good to instill it to the kids, so that they’ll keep it going one day.”
For those kids, the usual display of fire engines and emergency vehicles from the Copperhill Volunteer Fire Department, East Polk Fire and Rescue and the Fannin County Fire department passed the masses on sidewalks with glowing red lights and blaring sirens.
Of course, no parade would be complete without a pack of thunderous motorcycles rumbling through the streets and shaking storefront windows, their riders all donning Santa hats.
Boy Scouts Troop 32, of Epworth, and 14, of Ducktown, marched down the route proudly carrying flags and banners. Two high schools, Fannin County High and Copper Basin High, participated again in this year’s festivities, offering up Holiday tunes played by their respective bands and escorting their 2017 homecoming queens in snazzy-looking convertibles.
Several elaborate floats from churches and various organizations and businesses glided down the twin cities’ streets with joyful youngsters atop singing traditional Holiday carols. Vintage cars, trucks, tractors and even dune buggies added to the down-home display.
Following at a safe distance away from the hustle and bustle of the parade lead were the Back Country Horsemen of North Georgia with an impressive display of thoroughbreds.
Finally, honored guests from the North Pole visited the Copper Basin Saturday as Santa and Mrs. Claus lifted the spirits of anxious children with the familiar yule-time cheer of “Ho! Ho! Ho!”
As the friendly faces of so many familiar folks passed, both in the parade and on the sidewalks, through downtown McCaysville and Copperhill on a sunny December afternoon, it was easy to see why this wonderful tradition has stood the test of time for so long. And it is safe to say that the sense of community of these two mountain towns will keep this great tradition of history alive for generations to come.
Featured image: Nicholson Tire provided an interesting-looking snowman on their float that the Michelin Man would be proud of.
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