Hillbillies, clowns and grown men in tiny cars will parade the streets of downtown Augusta on Saturday morning.
They're all members of the philanthropic group known as the Shriners, those men famous for their red "fez" hats.
More than 100 Shrine Club members from the Alee Temple, which includes Shriner chapters throughout southern Georgia, will participate in the parade as part of their Spring Ceremonial, a biannual event that includes recruitment of new members. It will be the first time since 1988 that the festivities have been held in Augusta.
Members of the Augusta chapter will cruise the streets in their small yellow go-carts, which are decorated with lights, bells and horns.
"We've got some guys over 6 feet tall, with their legs all cramped up in there," Augusta Shrine Club President Don Harris said, laughing. "But it's a lot of fun acting like a kid again."
The Shriners may be best known for their small cars and silly antics, but there's a greater purpose behind it all, Mr. Harris said.
Shrine Clubs sponsor fundraisers for the Shriners Hospitals for Children, which provide medical treatment at no charge to the families. There are 22 hospitals all over the country. The closest one to Augusta is in Greenville, S.C.
"We're there to raise money for burned and crippled children, and that's something we can't forget," said Augusta member George Reckentine. "Yeah, we're having fun, but we do a lot of work behind the scenes."
After a parade in Brooklet, Ga., last summer, Mr. Reckentine said a mother approached his group and thanked them for the work the Shriners Hospital in Greenville did for her two twins. Meeting children who have been helped by the hospitals makes it worthwhile, Mr. Reckentine said.
"Just to see the kids laughing and smiling, that's really what motivates us," he said.
The parade will start at Sacred Heart Cultural Center on Greene Street at 10:30 a.m. and proceed on 13th and Broad streets, ending at the Ramada Inn on Sixth Street.
Reach Lindsay Wilkes-Edrington at (706) 823-3332 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Shrine Club was formed in 1872 by 13 members of the Masonic Order, a fraternity that dates back to 1717 in London and is based on ancient stonemason guilds. Today, there are more than 500,000 Shriners worldwide.
Shriners' most recognizable symbol is their official headgear, the red fez with black tassels. The hats are named for the city of Fez, Morroco, where they were first manufactured.
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