Christmas parade symbolizes shared community

·4 min read

Dec. 7—On the surface, the Lebanon Christmas parade shut down the streets, lined local children's bags with candy and provided some entertainment for spectators over the weekend. With a little digging, one could find out very quickly that it represents far more than just that.

In the lead-up the parade, local church choirs, area high-school marching bands and non-profit groups spattered the parking lot next to the Wilson County Board of Education building on Harding Drive.

As each group prepared to march, one commonality rose to the top. Everyone was excited to be participating in an event that brought the community together. Whether by consolidating all your fans into one place, or putting on a show for cross-town neighbors, the parade served to reinforce for those involved that they belong to something larger than themselves.

Olivia Rowe, the Cumberland University Marching Band treasurer, was helping her fellow bandmates lose any pre-parade jitters by leading them in a TikTok dance. Rowe said that laughter is the best way to get someone comfortable if they are nervous about what they're going to do.

Sunday's parade marked the third time that Rowe was participating. While her favorite part of the parade is having fun with her fellow band members, she added that through engagement with attendees, Lebanon has come to feel "like a second home."

Lebanon High School band captain Alyssa Croston is from Lebanon, and like Rowe, this is her third time marching in the parade as well. The "mini band director" had her work cut out for her on Sunday, but she said that it was entirely worth it.

"I love the end of the parade," Croston said, referring to the final stretch. "All the parents are there to celebrate us crossing the finish line."

For a lot of people watching the parade, the marching bands are the highlight. Michael Christian was seated in a car with his wife, Phyllis, daughter, Lauren Gulley, son-in-law Caleb Gulley, and their Aussiedoodle, Willa Mae, on East Main Street near the courthouse.

Christian mentioned that he was born and raised in Lebanon and had been to nearly every Christmas parade held in his lifetime.

"I don't know if I've seen this many people in a while," Christian said. "It's a great turnout today."

Another spectator, Dana Quarter, said that she's been holding down the same spot on Park Avenue, by the parade's origin point, for 30 years.

"It's one of the greatest parades ever," Quarter said. "We have entertainment for the young and the young at heart."

She said that she loves seeing the bands, along with the Shriners and the clowns. The parade presents an entertainment opportunity for Quarter, but she is quick to point out that it's all about bringing people together.

"If you live in Lebanon, we're all family," Quarter said.

One of the floats featured in the parade displayed the name of Jesus boldly against a black backdrop. Jacob Lannom of Cedar Grove Baptist Church was organizing the joint effort that brought people from multiple area churches together to share the good news.

"Instead of being isolated in our own churches, we wanted to come together in unity," Lannom said. "That's why we are all wearing black."

Lannom said that his group was embracing the "Jingle All the Way" theme of the parade but giving it their own spin.

"If there is one name we want to proclaim this Christmas season, it is the name of Jesus," said Lannom.

Their float was themed "Jesus All the Way."

Each float championed different causes and themes, often featuring specific organizations.

Special Olympics Tennessee hosted a float, spotlighting athletes from the area.

Mary Lee Burkett, a Special Olympics coach, indicated that the most important thing for her group is that "the parade allows the athletes to get together and to be seen and celebrated by the community."

One Special Olympics board member who was also at the parade, Ginger Ash, said that it's a great opportunity to promote the organization's polar-plunge fundraising event.

"We rely on the community to give us help with donations," said Ash. "We're going to use those funds to send our athletes to nationals next year in Orlando."

The parade gave organizations like these a platform to promote the missions they carry, and it also gave some local hobbyists a chance to show off their skills.

Timothy Zawacki and Lane Fudge of the mini-tractor gang rode their souped-up lawn mowers in the parade. Meanwhile, Chris Palmer of Lebanon Scrap showed off some of the vehicles that he competes with in the fair's demolition derby.

Palmer is quick to admit that he loves the thrill of the demolition derby, but he's happy he won't need a tow truck to get his vehicles home after the parade.

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