PEMBROKE — An hour into the Lumbee Homecoming Parade Saturday morning, at least a third of the entries had not moved an inch, and it would be two more hours before the giant armada deployed from UNC Pembroke to Third Street to Pembroke Elementary School.
This was the highlight of the much anticipated 50th annual Lumbee Homecoming, and it featured record attendance in every category. An overcast, unusually cool 80-degree day lifted attendance and spirits higher.
“Law enforcement can give you a better idea of the crowd size, but it is usually between 15,000 and 20,000,” said James Hardin, director of the Lumbee Regional Development Association, which has sponsored and organized the parade since 1969. “So, I would say we are well over 20,000 with the good weather.”
Bill James Brewington, who has directed the parade for the past 20 years, said there were between 350 and 400 entries. Floats, convertibles, trucks, motorcycles, marching bands, dancers and more were lined up four-abreast for a mile down Odum Road.
To see and be seen is the theme of every Lumbee Homecoming, said Reva Locklear, who arrived with her family before 7 a.m. to get a choice spot to put up her her tent.
“I come every year,” Locklear said. “It’s more about getting to see people. It’s a real homecoming.”
Katherine Ransom, who was under the next tent, said she had her homecoming two years ago.
“I’ve lived all over the county and moved home from Nevada two years ago,” Ransom said. “This is the reason. I missed the Lumbee culture and traditions of home.”
Greg Harris, who works at UNCP, said he’s only missed one Lumbee Homecoming Parade in 50 years.
“I was eight when I watched the first one along Main Street,” he said. “There were five or six floats, about 30 horses and some old cars.
“I’ve only missed one parade and that was when I was in boot camp in the Marines.”
State Rep. Charles Graham was also at the first parade, and at this one, he walked with North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper. Cooper attended the powwow afterwards.
“I was at the very first parade,” Graham said. “It’s a celebration, a tradition that has stood the test of time for 50 years. I’m glad to be here to see Lumbees from all over the nation return home.”
Business was good for vendors who were encamped from Pembroke Park to LRDA. Red Springs Silversmith Grant Dial was pleased.
“I started going to powwows up north, and my work in on sale in casinos and the Smithsonian,” Dial said. “I wouldn’t miss this one. We’re doing well.”
Robeson Community College was on display with two tents and three parade entries, including one with President Kimberly Gold on board.
“This is my second Lumbee Homecoming, and I had a great time at the first,” Gold said. “It’s been a good week for us because this is a great opportunity to talk to people and let them know what we do.”
Dorothy Blue was doing what she always does at Homecoming, socializing with old friends like Geraldine Maynor. This year the 5K Run and Walk was named in her honor, and she had the T-shirt to prove it.
“I walked the whole way,” Blue said. “My high school class was a sponsor.”
It was truly festive, which could be attributed to the 50th anniversary and the good weather. The fun started before the parade as music blared from vehicles, Charles Bell entertained with vocal numbers and a street preacher proselytized from a soapbox.
As the convertible carrying four-time pageant winner Madison Davenport rounded the bend onto Third Street, a young girl ran up to her and gave her a hug.
Lyndsey Locklear was crowned the new Miss Lumbee Friday night and had a coronation ceremony at the AISES Powwow after the parade. There was no shortage of beauty queens and princesses. Dr. Cheryl Ransom Locklear, the first Miss Lumbee in 1969, was co-marshal of the parade.
The Shriners had four entries, and the Marine Corps Band, in dress blues, got ovations all along the route. They marched and played not far behind two floats honoring Lumbee veterans who served as co-parade marshals.
The 50th edition of Lumbee Homecoming was roundly described as the biggest and most memorable of this event’s half century.
As one of the parade watchers noted, “There’s only one Lumbee Homecoming.”
A fireworks display later on Saturday would put a period on the eight-day event.