Jonesboro youth Kaylee Arnold, 4, tells “Santa Claus” what toys she wants for the holidays at the Jonesboro Christmas parade and festival Saturday.
JONESBORO When Joy Day was running to be Jonesboro’s mayor last year, and asked resident Jerry Tumlin what he would like to see her do if elected, he had only one response.
“I said, ‘Well, what I really miss is the Christmas parade, and I’d like to see you bring it back,” said Tumlin.
Residents who have clamored to see Jonesboro’s Christmas parade resurrected like a phoenix rising from its ashes after a four-year absence got their dreams fulfilled Saturday.
The parade was back and many city officials and residents were quick to call it a success. Close to 2,000 people lined Jonesboro’s Main Street to see the parade make its return to the land of Scarlett, Rhett and Smokey the Bandit. Thirty vendors also were set up along the parade route for a festival, and long-time Jonesboro resident Louise Blalock — who will turn 100 next spring — was the grand marshall.
“Santa Claus” sat on the old Train Depot porch and let children tell him what they want for Christmas after the parade.
“The city just didn’t seem right without it,” said Tumlin. “They did the Streetscape project to make downtown look nicer, but it just wasn’t the same [without the parade].”
The revived parade and a holiday festival was organized by Councilwoman Pat Sebo and Josh Durant, a clerk at Jonesboro City Hall, said Day, who is now mayor. The mayor said the parade couldn’t have been pulled off without their leadership and the support of city employees and volunteers.
Now, that the parade is back, Day doesn’t want to see it discontinued again.
Not on her watch, at least.
“As long as I’m mayor, we’re going to continue having the parade,” the mayor said. “So, it will at least be held each of the next three years of my current term.”
For vendors and residents a like, the parade was a welcome opportunity for the community to come together and celebrate the holidays without having to drive into “the big city” for an event.
“We get tired of having to drive to Atlanta just to find something to do,” said Jonesboro resident Nancy Hutcheson. “It’s nice to have this small-town atmosphere.”
Forest Park resident Candice Gober said, “who likes to fight traffic to get up to Atlanta for a parade?”
Jonesboro resident Shawn Hicks let his daughter, Kennedy Hicks, 2, sit on his shoulders so she could get a better view of the parade. He said he was pleased with event and he thought the city did a good job organizing it. He added he felt it was good to have a holiday festival and parade in the city as a unifying event for residents.
“This could be something for the community that brings everyone together as a city,” he said.
As the parade drew near, the crowds began to thicken as more and more people showed up to see their annual holiday tradition return. The bulk of the crowd was concentrated on Main Street, between Smith Street and College Street.
“Now the excitement is really starting build as we get closer and closer to the start of the parade,” said Karen “Sweet Mama” Tino, co-owner of Sweet Mama’s Fresh-squeezed Lemonade, one of the vendors at the parade.
As employees from Jonesboro-based Real 2 Reel Studios began to hype up the crowd at corner of Main Street and West Mill Street, McDonough youth Autumn Meredigh, 7, began to get a little antsy.
“I’m waiting for the parade so I can take pictures and I want to see Santa!” she said.
Sebo and Day said the parade has remained popular with Jonesboro residents, despite a four-year absence, because it represents it plays up the small town aspect of Jonesboro, which only has a few thousand residents.
“It’s a hometown feel of Christmas, and the residents missed that whole atmosphere,” said Sebo.
“There’s nothing like small-town America,” said Day.