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North Litchfield: Participation rising, but parade numbers are anyone’s guess
By Nikki Best
Every year it gets bigger. And better.
What’s rumored to have started as a few kids on rollerblades and skateboards has become a large, well-loved community event. The North Litchfield Fourth of July Parade is a sight to behold.
For 2017, golf carts, bicycles, hoverboards and skateboards wrapped around the corner of Windover Drive, waiting to roll down Hanover Street in a show of patriotism and celebration for the United States’ 241st anniversary of independence.
For Sgt. Bill Toomer of the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office, it’s one of his favorite assignments. His patrol car led the parade on Tuesday. “I’ve been working this eight or nine years and it gets bigger every year,” he said. “A few years ago, we must have had 200 floats. I look forward to it every year.”
At precisely 10 a.m., Toomer sounded his siren and the parade began. It originated in 1989. Or 1990. 1988? Somewhere around there.
“I took it over, I’m thinking 1989, and it was just six or eight golf carts,” Kitty Clay said. Her house on Hanover Street is the center of it all. She handed out watermelon slices, lemonade and water to participants and passersby. The parade was small until 2002, but following 9/11 participation and pride surged, she said. “I’ve been doing it ever since.”
For many children in and at the parade, it’s the biggest event of their vacation. Whether they traveled from far away or across the street, more often than not a child’s age is equal to the number of times they’ve attended the spectacle. One first-timer was 14-week-old Ada Pate.
Ada had no comment, but she smiled and cooed. Her dad, Richard Pate, grew up in Litchfield. His family, “moved here in 1987,” when he was about 3 years old, he said. “I think I’ve only missed one, but I was way, way out of town.”
Pate and his family live in Charleston. He and his wife Addie have been coming for six or seven years, as long as they’ve been together. It’s tradition.
Most carts, and people, followed a red, white and blue theme, but there were a few outliers. A Pittsburgh Penguins-themed cart returned this year, so did the Happy Everything cart. There was also a cart featuring Minions from the Despicable Me movie series.
Thirty minutes after it began, the last cart passed Clay’s home, and another police siren sounded. The parade was over. Crushed lollipops, melted mini chocolate bars and broken bead necklaces littered the street, but excitement still hung in the air. Several carts made another round as neighbors gathered in each other’s yards to discuss the parade.
How many were there this year? No one can agree. The number of floats each year is hotly debated. It’s rumored more than half of Litchfield was there on their golf carts.
“I saw 20 in the first five minutes,” David Hamilton said. Someone else guessed 150. Another offered 200. One went as high as 300. The guesses are all in good fun, just like the parade.
“We need to have a clicker,” Pate said. “People just sit here and estimate.”
Maybe next year.
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