By Pam Dudding
With so much violence going on in the world, we need more “times of unity.” Our Craig Valley Daughters of the American Revolution agrees and planned the first Independence Day parade for New Castle.
Word was spread far and wide and there were many different entries to vie for the first-place award. Also, several entrants shared that they just wanted to be a part of celebrating the real meaning of Independence Day, the birth of our nation’s first 13 colonies, being separated from Great Britain.
“To say I am delighted with the turnout for our First Annual Craig County Independence Day Parade would be an understatement,” Regent DAR Tina Crawford shared. “Our chapter gave away over 200 spinners and American Flags to the parade watchers.” There were at least 400 people in attendance.
Crawford is a relatively new resident of Craig. “I first posed the question to my fellow members of the Craig Valley Chapter DAR shortly after last July 4th, curious why there wasn’t one in New Castle and whether there had ever been an Independence Day Parade,” Crawford shared. “Other than the 1976 Bicentennial Wagon Train that came through New Castle, even the oldest members of our chapter, many who are life-long residents of Craig, could not recall one.”
After approving their desire to have a parade, their chapter began work in January to secure all the needed approvals from the town.
“As we moved into mid-May, I had an image in my mind that it would only be me and Diane Givens marching down Main Street – lol!” Crawford joked, “But little by little, registration forms started coming in and as the date closed near, I was receiving texts, phone calls and emails asking if they could join in the parade.”
They lost count of the actual number of entries, since there were many last-minute ones, but there were close to 40 units with over 100 people in the parade, which made for a great day.
The DAR set up the Patriot Cup trophy table at the courthouse.
“At the fairgrounds, it soon became deliriously happy chaos as more and more vehicles pulled through the gates – and that included tractors, trucks, vintage and classic cars, motorcycles, firetrucks, wreckers – as well as carloads of children eager to march in the parade,” Crawford said.
The judging took place prior to the start of the parade by three of their friends from the Allegheny Chapter of DAR, JoAnn Sutphin, Diane Cately and BJ Willard.
“Our District Director, Jeanne Motley Dooley and her husband also attended which made the event special for our chapter,” Crawford added.
The Town of New Castle Vice Mayor Tommy Zimmerman served as the very first Grand Marshal, leading the parade.
Emcees, Tim Leftwich, David Givens, and new Farm Bureau agent David Brown did an awesome job providing lively commentary and patriotic music during the parade.
Leftwich shared, “I’ve been here about 40 years and never regretted living here, there’s such good people here!”
“My son, Justin Crawford, the great-grandson of Myrtle Crawford who lived in New Castle for over 50 years, played the part of Uncle Sam, giving out flags and spinners to the crowd,” Crawford said. “And how can I not acknowledge the many businesses and merchants along the parade route who went above and beyond with their patriotic decorations to make the parade festive.”
The Masonic Lodge provided free lemonade and the Craig County Historical Society offered a delicious chili dog bag lunch with dessert provided by the Craig County Public Library’s bake sale.
Crawford shared, “As the parade emptied the fairgrounds and poured onto the streets, hearing the sounds of the firetruck horn blasts and patriotic music playing, I was overtaken with emotion as I was taken back over 60 years when I was a young girl watching my own hometown Independence Day Parade from the shoulders of my dad.”
All of their months of planning had finally come to fruition.
“My good friend Diane Givens ran to my side and hugged me and said “Let’s go! It’s time for a parade!” Crawford excitedly shared. “I jumped on the DAR truck and seeing the sight of families with their small children and senior citizens waving flags and spinners, as well as every age in between, absolutely made my day. The entire town was filled with happy, smiling faces enjoying our own small-town parade and celebrating our freedom and independence.”
Smiles, laughter, American flags and an atmosphere of freedom was almost tangible as people greeted one another warmly, conversations were plenteous and the American red, white and blue were worn, displayed and honored.
As each entry rode, drove or walked by, hand waves were exchanged from both sides. It was truly a great and memorable event.
Family and friends of Crawford’s, Kim Maskew and Eric Jackson, from Kingsport, Tennessee came and said they thoroughly enjoyed the parade. Jackson is an Army Veteran, serving from 1984 until 1992.
Mark Jones was celebrating his grandson’s fourth birthday, born July 4.
The town shared a solemn moment as the VFW Post 4491 decorated truck, which led the parade, stopped in front of the courthouse. They exited the truck, going into the courtyard to retire the tattered flag at the courthouse and replace it, adding an honorary time of reflection and prayer for the entire town.
Honor was truly shown on our Independence Day celebration.
Vintage vehicles, tractors, floats, and people walking garnished the trek from the Fairgrounds to Main Street. Patriotism was displayed everywhere. Even spectators and some pets were adorned in their patriotic colors.
Winners of the Most Patriotic Entries were, Craig Valley Post 4491 VFW with their military decorated truck the Dunbar Boys, Chase & Jonah (aka little Elvis) won the children’s Most Patriotic entry, receiving copy of the Constitution and a Quill and Ink set “to practice writing like they did in the ‘olden days’,” Crawford added.
Also, each child received gold medals with patriotic ribbons which they wore proudly. The first-place winner of the engraved Patriot Cup will be displayed at The Emporium.
“The VFW will forever have the bragging rights that they were the very first winner of the Patriot Cup,” Crawford shared.
The DAR sends many thanks to those who made this parade happen: County Administrator – Dan Collins and the Craig County Board of Supervisors, Craig County Tourism Council for their part in making the parade become a reality, Mayor Bucky Johnson and the New Castle Town Council for their support, Darryl Humphreys – CC EMS Emergency Management Coordinator for providing stand-by emergency services, Sheriff Trevor Craddock and his deputies for providing important traffic control and safety, the Fairgrounds Association for the use of the fairgrounds, and VDOT also placed important traffic signage along Route 311 to ensure safety for those traveling that road on July 4.
“I think I can speak for our DAR, that we plan to continue this as an annual tradition and will try to make it bigger and better with each coming year,” Crawford added.