Judging by the gift of great weather it got for its Christmas parade Sunday, North Augusta has been very, very good.
The sky was clear, the sun was bright, and temperatures in the high 40s and low 50s were just cool enough to feel right for the season, but not uncomfortable.
“The Sweetest Christmas Ever” was the theme for the parade, whose grand marshal was 13-year-old Heidi Gray Coughenhour, a Paul Knox Middle School student known for starring in the title role of a Broadway touring production of the musical Annie.
Her grandmother, Cynthia Harper Gordon, marveled at the difference between Saturday’s cold rain and Sunday’s fall perfection.
“I was afraid I might not be able to come” if the weather had stayed dreary, she said.
She found a spot along Georgia Avenue, bundled up in her chair and made a new friend.
Ann Diamond and Gordon hadn’t met before Sunday, but they quickly figured out they had at least 10 acquaintances in common.
“If we keep talking, we’re going to find out we’re first cousins,” Gordon said.
Across the street, Brannon Bailey was barely holding his own, trying to contain the excitement of three 6-year-old boys whose chief concern was the candy flung from passing floats.
Bailey’s son Brice, and friends Cooper Baynham and Cooper Moore, stopped scampering about long enough to shout “Merry Christmas” as Brice’s mother and sister rode past on the North Augusta Dance float.
Then a boy in a Grinch costume walked by, handing out more candy.
“Thanks, Grinch,” someone said.
“You’re welcome,” he replied.
Many of the approximately 2,000 people who came out to watch wore the jerseys, hats and T-shirts of their favorite college teams. South Carolina, Clemson and Georgia were everywhere. Alabama and even Wake Forest were represented as well.
As one float rolled past, a young woman in orange waved and shouted, “Go, Tigers!”
Politicians, beauty queens, high school bands, churches, dance studios, baton twirlers, car clubs, racing boats on trailers and vintage farm tractors all took their turns.
Mayor Bob Pettit, in his first parade as the city’s leader, was accompanied by granddaughter Molly Glenn, who flipped the switch to light up the city’s tree and Calhoun Park decorations last week.
At the end, Jim Baggott carried on a 46-year North Augusta tradition, playing Santa Claus and riding a city fire truck.
It meant even more this year because Baggott has had a tough year battling cancer.
“I didn’t want to disappoint the children,” he said after the parade, fighting back tears. In nearly 50 years, Baggott has “worn out three Santa suits and two pairs of boots.”
He just bought a new pair of boots and plans to wear them out, too.
The annual parade is sponsored by the North Augusta Lions Club.