It’s not every day a town with population 200 welcomes tens of thousands of people to their no stoplight town. Located just 10 miles from Heybo headquarters, Lowrys, South Carolina is home to many Chester County farmers, foresters, and their families. Town limits form a perfect circle, with a one mile radius, centered around the local farm supply store, volunteer fire department, and old train station.
Each year on the third Saturday of December, the town hosts its’ Old Time Christmas Parade. While the parade doesn’t begin until early afternoon, as the sun rises that morning guests will begin to arrive, staking out their perfect spot. My parents began attending prior to my brother and I being born. Here we are over 25 years later, still settling into that spot under the trees, to the right of the judges table, about a half mile into the parade route.
The best way to describe the morning scene is none other than tailgating. Griddles sizzle with bacon and sausage. Pop up tents and fire pits line the parade route. Our crew has even been known to stir a pot (maybe more of a small pool) of grits with a canoe paddle. Friends know if they find their way to our spot, a hot breakfast is waiting on them, to be served with a hug and a catch-up on the year’s happenings.
With bellies full and anticipation stirring, the parade begins at 1:00 sharp. The parade marshal, dressed in solid red, opens the parade, ringing a large brass bell. But unlike many parades, this line-up is a little different. Free of trucks, cars, ATVs, and golf carts… the Lowrys Christmas Parade is limited to farm equipment and livestock. For miles and miles the parade stretches with tractors, combines, corn pickers, horses, and maybe even a saddled cow. Tractors of every size, every shape, some antique and noisy, some brand new and shining… you’re surely to see it all.
Throughout my childhood I found myself on many a 4-H floats. Where a normal parade might have the local beauty queen camped out on the float waving… these floats had the 4-H club kids perched on a trailer with their grand-champion show-goats dressed up as elves and reindeer.
The local dairy drives a tractor with a baby calf in the front-end loader, and hands out single-serve cartons of chocolate milk instead of throwing candy.
Many parade veterans bring sidewalk chalk and make a competition out horse droppings. Drawing a grid on the parade route, whoever’s square gets blessed with droppings wins the prize… I reckon we’ll call cow-drop-bingo parade edition?
And for those interested in keeping up with the local dating scene… you can easily spot who has a new significant other by who is riding on who’s tractor buddy seat.
The parade route snakes through town, around the loop, and back towards where it started. Following the many tractors and horses, Santa brings up the rear, signifying the end of the parade. As the kids wave goodbye to Santa and gather the final pieces of candy, the time draws near to load back up and head home. Many will not return to Lowrys for another 365 days, until the next parade, but the few hours spent there that day are held near and dear to thousands of folks’ hearts.
It’s the first event that is penciled in each year when my mama gets a new calendar. It’s the one day I can count on seeing those familiar faces from high school. It’s a day you think about the grandparents who used to attend and are no longer with you. It’s a day that will surely fill you to the brim with Christmas cheer.
While this one-mile town has more hustle and bustle that day than any other day of the year, the world surely turns slower in Lowrys, South Carolina on parade day.