Last Friday’s Salem Christmas Parade traveled along a 3.2-mile route, starting at Shanks Street and ending at Oakey’s Funeral Parlor. Most of Downtown Salem was blocked off from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., but free curbside seating was available.
Sam Furstinger arrived with his family at the Salem Farmer’s Market around 5:30 p.m. “This only happens once a year, so I wanted my family to take it all in. The city’s tree lighting prior to the parade was really cool,” he said. “We ended up taking over 500 pictures with our family camera. My daughter thought we should have taken even more.”
Over 100 unique floats, clowns and marching bands were part of this year’s parade. Brett Walton’s favorite moment was seeing his sister in the Salem High Marching Band. “I wouldn’t have missed her marching for anything,” he said. “She works very hard on her craft and I know it means a lot to her to have the community support.”
All 107 parade entries were judged. The award for best marching band, religious theme and children’s category went to Glenvar High School, Fellowship Community Church, and Girl Scouts of the Roanoke Valley, respectively. The overall winner was the Salem Health & Rehabilitation Center for their Christmas vacation themed float.
For the last 61 years, the purpose of the Salem Christmas Parade has been to show unity in the city and bring the community together. “It was such a thrill to be able to be involved in the planning this year,” Jill Sluss, Salem-Roanoke County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, said. “This parade really is a total group effort. We are very thankful for our event partners, the Salem Parks & Recreation Department and the Salem Kiwanis.”
Teresa Sizemore Hernandez has never missed the Salem Christmas Parade. “My first one was with my mom in December 1979, the year I happened to be born,” she said. “I have passed the tradition down to my own children. My mom still comes and watches.”
Jaycee Harwell dislikes the cold weather but says she will tolerate it for the Salem Christmas Parade. “I’ve been to many parades all over the country but this one is unique,” she said.
Turnout for the annual Christmas Parade has increased significantly over the last decade. “From preschool pupils to the seasoned adults living in area senior living communities, all ages are always represented at this parade,” Jill Sluss said. “The Salem Christmas Parade is only possible through the generosity of many people that donate an enormous amount of time and, of course, funding to the event. People are already looking forward to next year.”