Clayton State University held its first Homecoming Parade in several years Saturday on Hwy. 54 in Morrow. More than 50 groups were in the parade, according to university officials.
MORROW If you can’t leave them, join them.
Dozens of customers who tried to leave the Walmart Supercenter in Morrow Saturday afternoon found their route blocked by a mythical dragon-like creature, fire trucks, police cars, a marching band, classic cars and more than 100 college students.
Rather than fight for another way out of the parking lot, many of those customers, including Morrow resident Teshia Johnson, decided to stay and watch what turned out to be Clayton State University’s homecoming parade.
“Actually, we just pulled out of Walmart and came across it,” said Johnson, who had her 5-year-old Zay with her.
This year marked the first time in six-and-a-half years that Clayton State has held a parade as part of its homecoming festivities. This was, however, the first time a parade had been held on Jonesboro Road, where parents and children could come out and watch.
Clayton State University spokesman John Shiffert said more than 50 entries had been slated to participate in the parade. There were so many participants in the parade that beforehand Shiffert said school officials weren’t sure how the event’s size would impact the size of the crowds.
“We didn’t know if we’d have enough people left over to watch it,” Shiffert said jokingly.
Minutes before the parade began, the sides of the street were empty but hundreds of people suddenly starting lining up to watch the festivities in front of the Walmart moments before the first floats arrived.
There were some people, such as Lake City resident Kariemah Gibson, who had heard about the parade in advance. But, it was a surprise to many of the spectators.
“The thing is, almost nobody knew about it,” said Gibson, who attended with her three young children. “People kept stopping and asking me what was going on because they saw all of the police cars [blocking off Jonesboro Road] and once I told them it was a parade, they were surprised. They definitely need to get the word out more next year.”
Many of the people made their way to the street once Jonesboro High School’s marching band could be heard in the distance, like a pied piper calling spectators to the celebration.
“It was nice because it actually brings excitement and people together in the city,” Johnson said.
It took nearly half an hour for the parade to pass by.
Clayton State President Tim Hynes rode on the back of a convertible in front of the marching band at the beginning of the processional. A short ways back, the university’s Lochness Monster-themed mascot, “Loch,” waved to residents from the back of a pick-up truck.
However, the Chick-fil-A cow decided to stretch its legs and walk the route.
Several Clayton State student organizations, its men’s and women’s soccer teams and a few community groups also marched or rode in vehicles during the parade.
The mayors of two cities, Morrow Mayor Joseph “J.B.” Burke and Lovejoy Mayor Bobby Cartwright, were among the parade participants. Morrow’s and Lovejoy’s public safety departments also had several vehicles in the event.
Forest Park mayoral candidate Sparkle Adams and her supporters also participated.
Clayton State students and staff handed out candy and Mardi Gras beads to spectators lining Hwy. 54 during the festivities.
While not many people knew about the parade beforehand, Johnson and Gibson said they hope the university does it again next year.
Gibson said it was a good family-oriented event for the community.
“A lot of parents are always looking for something to do with their kids, so yeah, I definitely hope they do this again next year,” she said.
But, one of her daughter, Trinity, 9, had just one suggestion for parade organizers.
“More floats,” the youth exclaimed.