The original date of the parade was canceled due to rain. It was held at 6:30 Thursday night.
“You’ll lose a few and you’ll get a few when something like that happens,” she said. “You have no control of the weather. And, also, people have other commitments. You do what you have to do. I never worried about it, because nobody rains on Ms. Rita’s parade.”
The highlight of the parade, besides Santa Claus, was Thompson Nash Wagoner’s float. Thompson was supposed to lead the parade as grand marshal but had to be in Memphis to continue his treatments at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
His uncle and aunt, Jon-Paul and Crissy Werner drove the truck carrying the float Thompson would have been riding on. Taking his place on the float were another uncle and aunt, Mike and Beverly Almaroad, and their grandchildren, along with Thompson’s brother, Sam Parker.
“Spectators along the parade route joined in and walked behind Thompson’s float,” said Edwards. “I thought that was wonderful. He’s a special little kid. We want him well.”
Edwards said there are no entry fees, nor are there prizes given.
“I just let everybody fill out an application and just come,” she said. “Like I said in the beginning 23 years ago, all you have to have is a band, Santa Claus and children, and you can have a parade. The excitement on children’s faces when they see Santa is priceless.”
Edwards said she didn’t do the work alone. She had the help of her sons and daughter-in-law, Michael, Tyler and Katie.
Her husband Lynn, who owns Edwards Grocery and Valley Meats on Alabama 204, provided the candy which was tossed from the floats.
“They won’t let you throw candy in a lot of parades,” said Edwards. “I think that’s a big part of it though.”
Edwards credited Police Chief Tommy and his department as well as the fire department for blocking off the roads and for their assistance in helping to see that the parade ran smoothly.
“Chief Thompson always does an awesome job with that,” she said. “Radio 810 was there interviewing people and announcing the entries as they went by.”
The Jacksonville High School Band was the only band in attendance. Others had to cancel.
“Jacksonville High School’s band always does such an awesome job,” said Edwards. “Jeff Gossett always works with us. I couldn’t do it without my Jeff.”
Edwards said she appreciated Brock Davis driving her in his golf cart as she coordinated the units in the parade. He also helped her line everyone up. Others helping were Jimmie Coheley, Mike, Dawn and Dylan Parsons, Carol Jenkyn and her daughter, Christine, Kyle Womack, Derrick, Lynn, Katie and Tyler Alexander.
Steve Clendon made the banner again this year. The banner tells the parade theme and leads the parade. This year’s theme was “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree.”
Edwards said she wanted to recognize News photographer Anita Kilgore who has never failed to photograph a parade.”
“We appreciate her time and her talent,” said Edwards. “No matter what the weather is, she’s always there and is always so cooperative.”
Everyone cheered as Santa (aka) Max King bought up the rear of the parade. Riding on a fire truck, Santa was a big hit, just as he is every year.
Churches, clubs, scouts, individuals and merchants made up the parade. There were entries from Anniston, Oxford and Gadsden.
This is the 23rd parade Edwards has coordinated the parade. When asked if she’s going to do it next year, she gives a quick answer.
“I can’t give it up,” she said. “It’s my pride and joy.”
Edwards said she’s already planning next year’s parade.
“I’m in the process right now of picking a date,” she said. “I’m ready to go.”
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