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Warm weather is perfect for W.Va. Christmas parade

December 06, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The Griffin and DeRonda families of Charles Town sat in their favorite spot on Washington Street Saturday waiting for the start of the annual Christmas parade.

"We wore hats, hoods, gloves ... and we all huddled under a blanket last year. It was really cold," said Heidi Griffin."

"It was windy, too," said Candace DeRonda who sat next to her husband, John, and daughter, Elizabeth, 13.

This year, everybody was stretched out on the sidewalk in balmy repose in short-sleeve shirts. Even little Joshua Griffin, 5, was appropriately dressed for Saturday's 76 degree, mid-afternoon temperatures.

That was 33 degrees higher than the registered high of 43 on Dec. 5, 1997. That day's low was 30, with wind gusts of 29 miles-per-hour, according to Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer's Web Site.

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An hour earlier, Tara Morgan was in the Martin's grocery store parking lot getting the float ready that would represent T.A. Lowery Elementary in the parade. It was the first time the school put a float in Charles Town's Christmas parade, held for the 56th time.

The theme was an old-fashioned Christmas, Morgan said. Keeping in step, the students' float was based on a traditional Christmas. It was decorated with hand-made quilts and antique furniture. Eight students rode the float portraying a mother and her children sitting around a fireplace while their father was dragging a tree into the house.

Morgan said another 30 students signed up to walk with the float singing Christmas carols.

Saturday was also the day Tara Ballenger of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., married Joel Polen of Charles Town. While preparations for the parade were going on all about them, Rhonda Mason, the bride's aunt, and Carol Whittington, a friend of the bride, were busy lining the walk up to the church with luminaires and decorating the entrance with garland and ribbons.

"The wedding starts after the parade ends," Whittington said.

This year's parade promised to be the largest ever with 137 units signed up to march in two divisions, according to parade officials.

Last year, about 70 units were in the parade and it took more than two hours to pass, said Charles Town Police Chief W.M. Aldrich.

The route began on Fairfax Avenue in Ranson, W.Va., to Mildred, then Washington and ended on West Street.

Just before it started, a ladder truck from Citizens Fire Department pulled up before Peoples Bank on West Washington Street. It ran its ladder to the roof where Santa Claus climbed on and made his way down to the street. Children ran up and hugged him before he was hauled off in a police cruiser to his place in the parade.

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