With 120 entrants, this year’s parade lived up to its reputation of being one of the largest in Northwest Georgia and was capped off by the appearance of Santa Claus.
One couple used the occasion to begin the next chapter in their lives as John Fricks surprised his girlfriend, Hailey Hyde, by proposing to her in the middle of Broad Street prior to the parade.
Surrounded by family and friends — some of which held up signs that said, “Hailey, will you marry me?” — Hyde said yes.
“She loves Christmas,” Fricks said of his fiancée. “This is a memorable place for us, and it made everything worth it.”
The two met while students at Shorter University and began dating officially when Fricks brought Hyde to last year’s Christmas parade.
“He said we were going to go get hot chocolate and I didn’t want to miss the parade,” Hyde said when asked what she thought when Fricks brought her out into the road.
“She is just the most wonderful girl in the world,” Fricks said. “I’ve never met anyone like her.”
Spectators began staking their spots to watch more than an hour before the 6:30 p.m. start and were glad to continue the tradition of getting a dose of the sights and sounds of the season.
“We come out every year, despite the thing inside us that says it’s too cold,” said Amanda Waits, who was sitting in the bed of a truck along Broad Street with the rest of her family from Cave Spring.
Her husband Danny was helping watch after their two daughters — Augusta, 5, and Abby, 2 — while waiting for the parade to begin.
“It still has a small, hometown feel that is very appealing to us,” Danny Waits said.
Temperatures stayed at about 50 degrees for the parade, and the rain that moved through the area earlier in the day was long gone by the time Santa took to his sleigh.
Floats promoting faith, peace and the love of a family at Christmas were on display as examples of this year’s theme of “It’s A Wonderful Christmas.”
Marching bands from all five of Floyd County’s high schools as well as Rome Middle School provided the soundtrack for the evening, and some floats had holiday music playing through speakers.
Brandy Mathis, from Silver Creek, was sitting with her 8-year-old daughter Anna in the center median along Broad Street.
“It’s fun,” Anna Mathis said of the parade. “I like to see Santa every year, and it makes me think of Christmas and presents.”
Ragan McGinnis, 5, was waving to people on floats as they went by and wishing them a Merry Christmas while sitting on the shoulders of her grandfather, Kevin Farren.
“We’ve been bringing her since she was 3,” Farren said. “She loves horses. She will go nuts if they have any.”
Between singing some of her own versions of Christmas songs, Ragan asked where Santa was.
“I want to see Santa,” she said when asked what she liked about the parade.
Then, after more than an hour from the first step off, jolly old St. Nicholas made his way past Rome City Hall and to the giant Christmas tree in front of the Carnegie building.
Santa then counted down to the lighting of the tree and the symbol that the holidays were officially in full force.
Float winners: Best in Parade - Watters Landscaping
1st - Children’s Dental Center
2nd - Harbin Clinic
3rd - Second Avenue United Methodist Church
4th - Floyd EMS
5th - Pridemore Orthodonics
6th - East Rome Baptist Church
1st - Antioch Baptist
2nd - Little Creek Baptist
3rd - Cub Scout Pack 610
4th - New Beginnings Outreach
5th - Cub Scout Pack 81
6th - Holy Trinity Lutheran Church