Leesburg native and country music star Luke Bryan stops to greet fans while acting as the grand marshal during Leesburg’s 23rd annual “Spirit of Christmas Parade and Festival” Saturday morning on Starksville Avenue.
LEESBURG, Ga. — Hundreds of people lined up in front of the Lee County Governmental Center and crowded both sides of Starksville Avenue as Lee County’s 23rd Annual Spirit of Christmas Parade began Saturday.
More than 100 participants and 20 floats participated in the parade, which lasted nearly an hour and a half.
Many in the crowd were there to see rising country star and parade grand marshal Luke Bryan.
Lee County Chamber of Commerce President Winston Oxford was delighted with the way the morning went.
“The day far, far exceeded my expectations,” Oxford said. “This is my eighth Christmas parade here and today blew all of the others off of the charts. The crowd started building at around 8:30 this morning as we were lining up the floats.
“It was an exciting morning and we couldn’t be more pleased.”
The morning, to borrow a cliché, was a classic “Chamber Day” with children making up a large part of the crowd.
Jeff Toole and his wife, Debbie, and boys Graham, 6, and Henry, 4, waited patiently for the parade to begin.
“Basically we came out to do something together as a family activity,” Jeff Toole said. “We wanted to get here a little early so the kids could be close to the parade and help us get into the holiday spirit. We wanted to set the mood for the holidays.”
Bryan’s mother, Leclair, was accompanied by a phalanx of relatives and eagerly awaited her son, who was riding at the end of the parade, just before Santa.
“He’s busting wide open and is excited as he can be to be in Leesburg,” Leclair Bryan said of Luke. “It’s amazing that so many people are here for the parade and to see him.”
Other parade watchers had different reasons for attending.
“My daughter is in the Lee County band color guard,” Catherine Ponson of Leesburg said. “We been putting up Christmas decorations, and we set up or tree last night, so this helps with the spirit.”
Ponson’s daughter, Elizabeth, a student at Lee County High, had been at the site since 6:30 Saturday morning helping with preparations.
“Having Luke Bryan as grand marshal is a big deal. We had Buster Posey last year,” Elizabeth said. “I always have a good time here. I like watching the little kids chase each other around for the candy.”
Sisters Ti and Arlie Potts, also students at Lee County, came for different reasons.
“I came for the candy,” Arlie said. Then Ti quickly countered, “don’t believe her, she’s really here to see Luke Bryan.”
Lindsey Littleton, who was with the sisters, laughed and said, “This is fun, plus I didn’t have anything better to do.”
At the end of the parade awards were handed out to best floats.
In the commercial division, Lee County Medical arts was the winner; Mack Odom Asphalt was second and Pressley Electric Services was third.
In the non-commercial division, Lee County High School FAA was the winner; Lee County PreK was second and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office float was third.