Traditions are a part of what make the holiday season special. Perhaps you rise before the sun in search of shopping deals the day after Thanksgiving.
Maybe you make the trek to cut down your own, live Christmas tree and fashion wreathes from the clippings. You might attend midnight church services each Dec. 24.
A Mount Pleasant tradition beckons thousands of locals and visitors to the edge of Coleman Boulevard each year – the annual Christmas Light Parade and Tree Lighting. “People have called from all over the state for information, and I am always told that we have the best parade in South Carolina,” said town Event Planner Nicole Harvey.
The event, hosted by the town for decades, at one time was an afternoon affair. However, 17 years ago, at the suggestion of then-Town Administrator Mac Burdette, organizers changed the event to a nighttime celebration, which might be one reason the parade has grown to draw nearly 10,000 spectators annually.
A tree lighting and fireworks display launch the fun at Moultrie Middle School. Soon afterward, the parade, featuring as many as 120 floats, kicks off from Shem Creek and winds a half mile to the Sea Island Shopping Center.
Su Frost, who planned the parade from 1988 to 1993 and again from 1997 to 2010, said the switch to after-dark hours brought new challenges and exciting opportunities.
She cited “working out how to light a float so the crowd could see the faces on the floats,” as one potential problem, adding that the biggest issue was powering up the lights, using generators and making sure the generators were properly stowed. Other challenges were making sure people could light up floats safely and ride on floats without falling off – and keeping 18-wheelers from following groups of walking cheerleaders.
“If one fell over, the driver of the truck would not see them,” she noted, adding that “the Police and Fire Department do a wonderful job of keeping everyone safe.”
For Frost, the end of the parade was always the best part, an opportunity to bask in the relief she felt when it became obvious that everything had gone smoothly. Otherwise, she said the Fire Department truck and Santa were the highlights of the parade.
“My (other) memorable moments were the groups who really put so much effort into the entries,” said Frost. “A parade is only as good as the entries. The schools, the community entries and the bands put so much time and enthusiasm into the event, and I truly appreciated that.”
According to Harvey, in recent years, popular participants have included the Budweiser Clydesdales, the Wells Fargo wagon, Belle Hall Elementary School’s living snow globe and floats related to dental health, from a “Tooth Ferry” boat to a “Molar Express” train.
“I think the parade is loved as it is a tradition, although changed over the years,” noted Frost. “It brings friends and family together to celebrate the season.”
The Mount Pleasant Christmas Light Parade and Tree Lighting is scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 9. The tree lighting and fireworks begin at 5:30 p.m. at Moultrie Middle School.