Lions Club project: Christmas parade in Greenbrier gets better and better

by Renee Hunter

Since taking on the Greenbrier Christmas Parade as a project three years ago, the Greenbrier Lions Club has focused on growing it.

This year the parade, which has been a fixture in Greenbrier for 15 years, will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15. This year’s theme is “Christmas in Candyland.”

The first year of running the parade was the hardest, according to Lions Club President Donny McMillen, who spearheads the project with secretary/treasurer Christopher Rister. “We were sort of feeling in the dark that first year; there were so many things we didn’t foresee.” For example, the Greenbrier High School Band marched in street clothes that year because uniforms had already been sent to storage for the year. That hasn’t happened again.

One of the first things the club did after taking on the project was to seek sponsors, and sponsorship numbers have grown each year. The event currently has about 20 sponsors.

“We’ve been blessed with good sponsors,” Donny said.

The club also added a chili cook-off to the mix. In past years, the cook-off has been held at Greenbrier City Hall. This year, it will be at the old middle school cafeteria, starting around noon. The chili is judged and prizes are given for first, second and third place. The chili is then sold for $5 a bowl, which raised about $200 last year.

The chili and sponsorship monies offset parade expenses, and the remainder supports college scholarships and buys eyeglasses. The biggest parade expenses are signs and trophies.

First, second and third-place trophies are also given in each parade category, of which there are six: floats, cars, tractors, horse and buggy, motorcycles and bands.

The parade begins and ends at City Hall, which is something of a logistics problem since it is so long – it boasted 50 floats, two bands, a Boy Scout troop, a member of the Patriot Guard Motorcycle Club, a tractor division and a horseman last year.

“The flow of traffic is still a work in progress,” Donny said. “There’s all kind of things like that that we have to get together.”

Robert Moore serves as announcer, describing each float and giving a short history of each participating group as it moves into line.

The Lions Club float honors veterans each year, and Donny says there is no shortage of veterans willing to ride in the parade.

When the Greenbrier Chamber of Commerce organized the parade, it was held on a Sunday afternoon. The Lions Club changed the time to Saturday afternoon. This year’s switch to a week night is due to the busy schedule of the Greenbrier High School Band, which is a mainstay of the parade. Donny has also invited bands from outside Greenbrier to participate.

Greenbrier’s schools are very supportive of the parade, Donny says, and most of the extra volunteers come from them. Student volunteers help put up signs and assist with the cook-off before the parade. Volunteers in Santa hats pass out sacks of candy to children along the parade route, and students help clean up the route after the event.

For that reason, Donny said, “We try to consider the school in every decision we make.”

Of course the parade has a grand marshal every year. Past grand marshals have included B.J. McMillen, Coach Randy Tribble and Coach Bill Butler. The name of this year’s marshal will remain secret until the day of the parade.

The eight members of the Greenbrier Lions Club consider putting on the parade a worthwhile effort because it fosters the community spirit and sense of volunteerism the club’s members strongly believe in.

“We consider it the centerpiece of our club’s activity,” Donny said.