POWHATAN – A great turnout among spectators and one of the longest float line-ups in recent years combined with a beautiful day outside to make a success of the 2019 Powhatan Lions Club Labor Day Parade.
Crowds lining either side of Old Buckingham Road endured slightly hot weather on Monday, Sept. 2 as they sat and watched a parade that lasted more than an hour, but the overall festive atmosphere seemed to show most people thought it was worth it, said Betty Bowman, who co-chaired the parade with Kathy Ware.
“We appreciate them coming out to either support the parade by being in it or one of the vendors on the Courthouse Green, and especially the spectators who came out to watch it. We look forward to having them out next year,” Bowman said.
A whopping 73 parade entries marched through the Village area for the annual festivities, including a surprising number of political entries ranging from local to the national level, she said. Usually in an election year the presence of candidates and political parties is definitely seen on the Courthouse Green, but this year “political candidates wanted to be marching in the parade.”
Among the walkers on the parade route was Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, who said this was her third time joining in the annual Labor Day tradition.
“I love it. It is, I think, one of the biggest, most exciting parades that we have across our 10 counties. There is a tremendous sense of community,” she said. “For me, the really important thing is to be out in the community meeting people, giving people the chance to ask me questions, being available and being part of the community. I have had a variety of people want to talk politics, a variety of people just want to talk about the Labor Day Parade.”
The candidates were joined by a wide array of individuals and organizations representing youth clubs, pageant winters local schools, civic organizations, businesses, and more. Other highlights included the parade’s first grand marshal, retired Powhatan deputy Adam Sadler, and the unveiling of Betsy Blandford as the 2019 Powhatan Christmas Mother.
Blandford said being in the parade was one of the most fun things she has ever done in her life. She wore a Christmas-themed tiara and rode in a convertible driven by outgoing Christmas Father Larry Lyons.
“I was so welcomed by so many people along the way. I got to see friends. I got to see children waving. There was just a great deal of enthusiasm along the entire parade route,” she said. “I think it starts my year off on a very positive note.”
Native Powhatan resident Jessica Culver said the parade is a lifelong tradition for her and now she is experiencing it with her family – husband, Keaton, and daughters, Eloise, 2, and Blakely, 5 months. The parade is a great way to end the summer and they always follow it with a family cookout.
On the way to the parade, Culver said she wanted to see some goats, so she was pleased to see one of the 4-H groups toward the end of the parade had a few goats. The highlight for Eloise was the candy given out by the parade participants.
“This is her third year coming. Last year she could remember a little bit. This year was her first year being able to really understand what the parade was. She has a book bag full of candy and she could not keep her eyes out of her book bag because she was amazed at all the candy,” Culver said.
Bertha Walker of Powhatan attended the parade for a second time and this year actually walked in it with a local political candidate. She said her favorite part was handing out candy to the children and then walking around the Courthouse Green and seeing the different booths.
“I was glad that the weather was good and just glad to be meeting people and finding out about all these things that are going on in Powhatan that I had no idea about, like the Master Gardeners,” she said. “I think it’s great for all the people in Powhatan. A lot of people don’t know each other in Powhatan, so this brings people together.”
The parade also brings people from far away. Spanberger mentioned meeting a couple from England who attend the parade every year. Powhatan resident Conway Blankenship was happy to show off the parade to her visiting cousins from Heidelberg, Germany, Hans and Heidi Bauer.
Hans Bauer remarked on how amazing it was to see entries such as the school groups, motorcycle club, car clubs, and Powhatan High School Marching Band. His wife loved seeing all of the participation by the fire and rescue personnel.
Parades of this size in Heidelberg are usually only used to mark major milestones, perhaps happening every 50 years, so to have this every year is a wonderful feat of organization and community spirit, he said.
“This parade was so big and so nice. I was so happy that I could see this parade. This is a big, big family party,” Hans Bauer said.
Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.