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Willingham loves a parade

December 27, 2001

Willingham loves a parade



Editor's note: This is the fifth in a series of stories running on the 12 days before Christmas to recognize individuals and groups who make the holidays and every day better for others.

By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro


Geraldine Willingham thought this would be the last year she would chair the Charles Town-Ranson Christmas Parade in West Virginia. She's been putting it together for nearly 30 years.

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Then she realized that next year would be the parade's 60th anniversary.

"I'd like to do something different next year," she said.

After that, she'll turn the responsibility over to somebody else, she said.

The parade was started in 1942 to give the families of local men fighting in World War II a boost in morale around the holidays. The idea for the parade came from then-Charles Town Mayor Nicholas Carson and Margaret Bloom, a member of the Junior Women's Club, said Willingham, 65.

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Willingham's involvement in the parade began while she belonged to the women's club. She volunteered to help Bloom on the parade committee when she was 30, and she's been at it ever since.

Her parade planning committee today is herself, Charles Town City Manager Jane Arnett and Charlotte Davis.

The mile-long parade runs for more than an hour and can have as many as 115 entries, she said.

"Thousands of people come to town to see it," she said.

The parade is sponsored by the city councils in Ranson and Charles Town. The towns kick in the $2,200 for prizes.

Willingham has been a member of the Charles Town City Council for 14 years.

"It's always a lot of work, but when the time for the parade comes, everything seems to fall into place," she said. "It's always satisfying to see the smiles on the kids' faces, especially the little ones. I used to bring my own children to see the Christmas parade."

Tomorrow: Hospice of the Panhandle volunteer JoAnn Domenico.

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