LAURINBURG — Encouraged by sunny skies and just the right level of chill in the air, thousands thronged to Main Street on Saturday as Scotland County put its most festive foot forward.
Orchestrated by the Laurinburg-Scotland County Area Chamber of Commerce, the annual Christmas parade saw 123 entries from every flavor of business, youth organization, and civic group walk and roll down the street exchanging calls of “Merry Christmas” with the crowds lining the pavement. Some parade entries sent runners to the crowd with gifts of candy and, in the case of Cascades Tissue Group, ever-practical rolls of paper towels.
“I came out this afternoon during all the crises and everything happening in the news because I wanted to come out and see my town smile,” said city resident Angela Hale, viewing the parade with a small herd of grandchildren.
Hale counted the city of Laurinburg’s monumental “Polar Express” float and the Laurel Hill Fire Department’s “Mischievous Minions” — which consistently drew excited squeals from viewers under the age of 10 — among her family’s favorites.
“I’m having a ball,” she said “The Scotland High School band is who I always come out here to see. They give you a good show every time.”
Headlining the parade this year was the 2d Marine Division Band, which sent 40 members — the bulk of the band, excluding non-marching instruments — from Camp Lejeune to lead the way with strains of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “Semper Fidelis,” and “The Marines’ Hymn.”
The band spent about two months fine-tuning its parade performance in addition to its regular duties serving at military retirement and change of command ceremonies. The band is also preparing a Christmas concert and serves at public occasions in the Jacksonville area.
“They learn some Christmas music, so it took about two months to finalize the music and prepare and rehearse the music and then we always march it,” said drum major Keith Algeo. “We just go out on the street and start marching, focusing a lot on the music and the fundamentals and the sharpness of our movements.”
Most band members are music specialists, proficient in multiple instruments and enlisting directly into the band.
“It’s a process, but you can enlist right into the band — recruiters love musicians,” said Algeo. “They’ll take an audition before they enlist, and they’ll say yes you can do it or no, come back and try again.”
Those who pass the audition head off to boot camp and undergo combat training before spending six months at the Naval School of Music in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Though their primary function is musical, band members are not excluded from serving in combat.
“Band members do actually deploy, so we do maintain all the training that every other Marine is required to do,” Algeo said. “You never know.”
Also interspersed among the parade entries were the St. Andrews University Pipe band, the Carver and Spring Hill middle school bands, and the South Robeson High School marching band. But in terms of sheer decibel level, none were matched by the cacophony created at the tail of the parade by sirens and horns from trucks representing Scotland County EMS, half a dozen county fire departments, and Jackson’s Diesel Service.
“It’s great — anytime people can come out and enjoy the spirit like this, and enjoy everybody’s company I think it’s fantastic,” said parade attendee J.R. Wright of Laurel Hill. “The Scotland High School band has got to be our favorite, other than the little kids dancing of course. That’s everybody’s favorite.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.