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WATER VALLEY – The return of the annual Christmas parade is going to be big as the Water Valley Area Chamber of Commerce reports the number of entries continues to grow. Santa’s sleigh has a fresh coat of paint, Water Valley’s oldest fire truck is revving back to life and Forrest Bryan has committed to a repeat performance from the 1975 parade when he rode his unicycle down Main. The lineup also includes the familiar favorites such as the Devil Dolls, watermelon and homecoming royalty, antique cars, fire trucks, police cars and, of course, floats.
The big night – that’s right this marks the first time in over 20 years the parade will be held at night – is scheduled at 6 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 3. The holiday fun will extend well into the night as Christmas in the Valley also coincides with the parade and the magical night will also include horse carriage rides, food trucks, holiday characters, snow, carolers and a tree lighting ceremony at 5:30 p.m.
The city’s oldest fire truck, a 1937 GMC, has been sitting in storage at city hall since the 2004 or 2005 parade until Water Valley Fire Chief Mark McGavock had it moved to his department last month.
“I had initially thought about asking the city to sell it. But when I brought it over here to get it out of city hall, everybody who saw it on the tow truck asked if we are going to put it in the parade. With the interest, it seems like it should be restored,” the fire chief reported. The decision to restore it was made even easier due to the fact that the truck is unique – it is one of the few fire trucks across the state from that era that remains in its original department.
“The city bought it new, and it has 8,900 original miles,” McGavock explained.
A fire truck with a working pump from that era is also unique.
“You can still find a 1937 fire truck but to find a 1937 American Lafrance with the original pump that still works is rare,” McGavock added.
The chief described the work to get it running for the parade has been bare bones, as work didn’t start until October.
“We didn’t have to do a lot to make it run,” McGavock explained the early effort to get the truck running and able to stop, as the motor and brakes were in relatively good shape.
The longterm plan is for a complete restoration with firemen working on the project during spare time on their shifts. Volunteers including Bobby Camp and Mickey Howley have also stepped up to help with the project. The planned restoration includes keeping the truck and most of the accessories original while adding modern conveniences such as LED lights and updated wiring.
“I want to look at a fundraiser in the future to help fund the work. That allows people to have input on what will be done. But we aren’t going to paint it blue so everybody can relax. We are going to paint it the original red,” he added.
The yet unnamed antique will be accompanied in the parade by “Big Blue,” the city’s new pumper which is appropriately painted Blue Devil blue that make its inaugural parade run.
Getting Bryan’s unicycle ready to roll is a much easier task, as the cycle is not the same one he rode in the parade 45 years ago.
Bryan recalled that as a teenager somebody talked him into donning a clown costume and riding his unicycle in the parade.
“I never rode it in a parade again,” Bryan, now 61 recalled.
Bryan, who works as the workforce development for Northwest Mississippi Community College (NWCC), explained the idea to ride again originated after someone asked him if he would be part of the NWCC contingency in this year’s parade.
“It has been years since I have been on a unicycle, but I said I would attempt to ride it,” Bryan added.
Admittedly the feat 45 years later will not be as easy. He plans to utilize the downward slopes along the parade route, including the stretch from Dr. Barry Week’s office to the post office. Stamina permitting, he may walk it a little, and then ride again starting at the hill in front of Mechanics Bank.
“Then I’m out,” Bryan joked.
There are already 22 floats registered for the parade including entries from the U.S. Corps of Engineers, the Chamber of Commerce, Paul and Pat Rodrigue, Oxford Health Management, Sylva Rena Baptist youth, the Water Valley Main Street Association, Northwest Mississippi Community College, Woodland Hill Baptist Church, Little Professionals, First Baptist Church children’s ministry, Everdale M.B. Church, Mechanics Bank, Yalobusha General Hospital, Bayson Chapel M.B. Church, TVEPA, Water Valley Arts Council, Yalobusha County fire department, Santa float, Faith Learning Center, Adonia Church, Union Hill CME Church and Cinnamed. The Chamber will award $750 in prize money, $250 for the grand prize and $100 for top category winners (business, organization, school, religious and other).
The Chamber of Commerce urges everyone planning to participate to submit entry forms by Friday. Chamber parade committee chairman Tonya Eubanks reminds everyone that an entry form has to be completed for each parade entry. For more information, contact Eubanks at (662) 609-7370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.