Rain threatened — but never dampened — a festive atmosphere downtown, where hundreds gathered Monday to kick off a week of fun with the 51st Annual Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair Parade.
Dark clouds over North and South Main streets gave way to blue skies just as a procession, led by the local Boy Scout troop, departed from Northside Drive.
Umbrellas were packed up when marching bands, floats and parade trappings of all kinds began rambling past throngs of smiling, cheering children and adults.
By narrowly avoiding poor weather, the Kiwanis parade became one of the largest in the event’s history.
“We had 130 entries this year, and a tally early in the day showed more than 2,300 people participating,” parade chairman Charles Sheets said.
Sparse real estate was to be had for people showing up late, as friends and families packed sidewalks along Main Street from the beginning of the parade route to its end.
Chairs, strollers, and blankets littered the landscape, while balloons and candy flew in every direction.
Once the Boy Scouts and color guard passed, a steady stream of tractors, fire engines, dancers and musicians began.
Children watched in awe, next to the Bulloch County Courthouse, as Georgia Southern University, Statesboro High School, Southeast Bulloch High School and Portal High School marching bands performed a medley of tunes.
Cheerleaders and dancers took turns somersaulting under traffic lights, politicians and pageant winners waved from their vehicles, and mascots — Georgia Southern’s bald eagle Freedom, Ronald McDonald, a bee, a dinosaur and more — delighted.
Along with several classic cars, many belonging to Statesboro’s Southern Cruisers Club, floats of every kind and size slowly completed the route.
Most floats paid homage to the 2012 parade theme, “Agriculture: Lifeblood of America.”
Several groups rode by on vintage farm tractors; members of the Kando Center arts program piled into a trailer full of hay, sharing a ride with
different kinds of fruits and vegetables; and Girl Scouts hunkered down in a mobile cotton field.
Even man’s best friends got in on the action.
The Bulloch County Humane Society featured an “Animals for Agriculture” float that carried its canine, and feline, pals. And, the Bulloch County 4-H program rounded out the lineup, passing with a herd of horses.
Sheets was excited about the participation and called the turnout “wonderful.”
When the parade wrapped up, many people, as they often do, made a short trip to the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fairgrounds to enjoy the first night of the annual fair.
Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.