VINTON–Vinton celebrated the holiday season with its annual Christmas Parade on December 3. The festivities started with the traditional Spaghetti Dinner sponsored by the Vinton Breakfast Lions Club at the VFW Hall beginning at 4 p.m. The hall was packed with supporters. Members kept the noodles boiling while Lion Mike Stovall stirred the homemade sauce on a grill.
The Vinton Library—now that it’s in the thick of things downtown–hosted a Holiday Ornament making activity for children throughout the afternoon guided by Children’s Library Assistant Emily Metrock. There was also a scavenger hunt for teens during the parade organized by Roanoke County Teen Library coordinator Kelsey Frey. The scavenger hunt included instructions to “Eat a candy cane, wave to someone in the parade, check out a holiday book, spot Rudolph, drink hot cocoa, find someone you know from school, and find someone in a tacky sweater.”
The official ceremonies got underway with the Tree Lighting ceremony at the Municipal Building at 6 p.m. The William Byrd Marching Terrier band members decorated their instruments and performed carols. Director Dan Plybon passed out copies of the lyrics to the crowd so they could sing along.
The band was followed by the Floyd Ward dancers and concluded with a performance by vocalist Joe Overfelt, Jr.
Although the weather was nippy, there were large crowds lining Pollard Street, Cleveland Avenue, and Maple Street downtown, and all along the parade route on Washington Avenue. The parade got underway from the old WBHS building on Gus Nicks Boulevard and finished up at the War Memorial.
There were approximately 100 units in the parade—many were traditional floats created by school, church, and civic organizations.
The Steelers Fast Pitch softball team featured a Whooville float with a special guest. Amy Hebert, Director of the Thrasher Weekday Preschool, had a special request for Allen Wood of Wood’s Service Centers Towing and Transportation. Her niece Genevieve battled cancer a little over two years ago. When Hebert learned Wood was going to be the Grinch on the float, she asked if he would have a “Meet and Greet” in costume with Genevieve, as the Grinch is her favorite character.
Wood not only agreed but invited her to ride on the Whooville float with the team. He said he “just wanted to help make a precious little girl smile.”
“She was beyond excited and he just made her dream come true,” said Hebert. “It was a beautiful moment and a beautiful night for her. She told her mom that her heart grew after that. We are very appreciative to Allen, aka the Grinch, and the softball team for making this happen for her.”
Genevieve is the daughter of Darren and Sarah Metcalf.
Bands marching in the 2015 parade included the William Byrd Marching Terriers, along with those from Cave Spring, Staunton River, Northside, and William Fleming High Schools. Santa and his wife were on hand as usual as the grand finale of the parade, riding on the top of a Vinton Fire Truck along with many children and first responders.
The evening concluded with a visit from Santa and his wife at the Vinton War Memorial. The Floyd Ward dancers performed as they do each year with several individual and ensemble productions. There was hot chocolate, juice, and coffee to warm up after the hour long parade—and cookies.
Children and adults were encouraged to use the craft materials on hand to create cards to be delivered to veterans at the VA Center while they watched the dancers perform or waited to visit Santa with their Christmas lists.
Parade float winners were announced at the War Memorial with prizes awarded. The Mayor’s Award went to the VA Veteran’s Center float.
First place in the religious category went to New Testament Baptist Church; second place to the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church Children’s Choir; and third place to the Hollins Road Church of the Brethren.
Winners in the non-religious category were first place, the Staunton River YOVASO; second place, Steelers Fast Pitch; and third place, Roanoke Golf Carts.
Each year Eric Thomas of Olde Colony Realty sponsors two special awards. This year the winner of “Best Children’s Float” went to Cub Scout Pack # 136. The Roanoke Adventist Prep School was named as “Best Children’s–Other.”
The Town of Vinton and the Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce collaborate in producing the parade and its accompanying activities each year. Generally the Vinton Parade is the first in the Roanoke Valley each holiday season.
The Vinton Christmas Parade tradition started in the 1950’s with a small parade started by the Chamber of Commerce. The parade idea took hold again with a parade held on December 4, 1975.
Sponsors included Roanoke County, the McDonald’s of Vinton, BNC Bank, Cox Business, Vinton Roofing, Winter’s Storage, PFG, Lotz Funeral Home, Vertex Signs, Grand Rental Station, Carilion Clinic, Farmer’s Insurance/Caleb Mann, First Citizens Bank, Vinton Computer, Magnets USA, the Bank of Botetourt, HomeTrust Bank, Freedom First, GCR, Berkshire Health and Rehabilitation Center, Allstate Insurance—the Gillespie Agency, and AEP.
This year’s parade and activities were made even more memorable with the installation of new streetlights along Pollard Street and Lee Avenue as part of the Community Development Block Grant the town received in 2012 from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. The town and area businesses partnered to purchase holiday banners for the lampposts.
Several area businesses and individuals donated money to the “Wrap the Pole Project” which enabled the town to wrap 20 streetlights with strands of lights. Sponsors included the HIVE business incubator, Jim Privitera from Earthworks Pottery, Frank and Janine Stone, the American Efficiency Inn, Neely’s Accounting, D.R. Music, BNC Bank, First Citizens Bank, Jim Reynolds, Hometrust Bank, the Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Vinton Messenger.