PEMBROKE — Downtown Pembroke was brimming with holiday cheer on Thursday as spectators turned out for the town’s annual Twilight Christmas Parade.
A sea of people lined up along North Odom and Main Street to catch a glimpse of the more than 100 entries — antique vehicles, beauty queens, marching bands and ornately decorated floats as they made their slow march through downtown.
Leading the pack was Mayor Milton Hunt, who waved to the crowd from the passenger side of a vehicle.
Shortly after, the Sudan Tomcats zipped by in their trademark miniature cars.
Some of the more eye-catching entries in this year’s parade included a large motorized roller skate promoting Roller World Skating Rink and a utility vehicle from the Lumbee River Electric Membership Corporation that was draped with hundreds of holiday lights.
Several participants donned Santa caps and jackets, but judging from the delighted squeals of children when the big man himself arrived near the end of the parade, nothing could compete with the genuine article.
Santa was trailed by a series of fire trucks and ambulances, which made up the caboose of the parade.
“On a scale of one to 10, I’d give this year’s parade a 10,” said Allison Locklear, who has attended multiple Christmas parades in Pembroke.
“I loved all of the floats with the kids,” Jillian Flom said. “They were really cute.”
Immediately following the parade, more than a hundred people gathered at the Pembroke Old Town Park to take part in the annual tree-lighting ceremony.
“It’s a special time for all of us, and we hope everyone here has a very merry Christmas,” Hunt told the crowd before tapping a button that set the 12-foot-tall tree aglow with festive neon.
After the tree was lit, members of the Pembroke Chamber of Commerce served complimentary cups of hot chocolate as choirs from area schools performed Christmas carols.
Students from Pembroke Middle School opened the night with their rendition of “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.” While the holiday staple’s lyrical nods to snowmen and chimneys belied the 70-degree weather, the audience didn’t seem to mind.
“It’s wonderful weather,” said choir director Rembret Parker. “I think the tree looks great.”
There are more parades in the immediate forecast, but there is also the threat of rain.
Fairmont should be OK with its parade, which is today at 6 p.m. in downtown. A tree-lighting ceremony will immediately follow the parade. After the ceremony, choirs from Rosenwald and Long Branch schools will perform at the Heritage Center.
But a 60 percent chance of rain threatens parades in Marietta and St. Pauls on Saturday.
According to Marietta Councilwoman Donna Stubbs, the parade will go on in her town rain or shine.
“We had rain one other year out of 26 years and we went on,” said Stubbs.
The 27th annual Marietta-Whitehouse Volunteer Fire Department parade will begin at 11 a.m Saturday at the old Marietta school.
The St. Pauls parade begins at 3 p.m. at St. Pauls High School.
“We’re going to try and go on and carry on the best we can,” said Sue Garnett, president of the town’s Chamber of Commerce. “We might get a little wet but we’ll still have the spirit.”
Staff writer Sarah Willets contributed to this story.