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Procession sets tone for busy day
Merchants prepare for large crowds
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Forsyth County News
It’s been years since the annual Thomas-Mashburn Steam Engine Parade traveled past the Dairy Queen in Cumming.

But that hasn’t stopped the long-running fast food restaurant from remaining a hot spot for cool treats after the annual Fourth of July procession.

“It brings more people usually after the parade for a little while,” said owner Jay Willingham.

The city’s annual patriotic parade draws a large crowd from across Forsyth and neighboring counties. James McCoy said the Saturday morning event serves as a great kickoff for some afternoon shopping.

McCoy, president and chief executive officer of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, said gas stations, restaurants and retailers likely will see an uptick in sales because of the procession.

“The more that you are bringing people ... in front of vendors and merchants, the more likely they are to do business with them,” McCoy said.

“Any time you have an event where people are coming to get engaged with the stuff going on in the community, all the better.”

While the parade passes through downtown Cumming via Tribble Gap and Castleberry roads, McCoy said retail centers like Market Place Boulevard and The Avenue Forsyth could also see a peak in business.

Willingham won’t be manning Dairy Queen during the parade.

He will be working on his family’s two steam engines with his three sons and some friends. With his family’s history in the city, the celebration is as much a part of the business as the customers.

“It’s a good feeling to be a third-generation operator of a fast food restaurant that was basically the only thing that was here in ’64,” he said. “It’s pretty special.”

Long before the parade begins, Paulette Grant will be at an oven making about 500 biscuits.

Grant is manager of the Station House Restaurant, which plans to open at 5 a.m. The restaurant, which is located along the parade route, will be busy, she said.

“The people that are in the parade gather over here at Chigger Webb’s place,” Grant said. “They order their breakfast in advance and we have their breakfast ready for them to come pick it up.

“It’s one of the biggest days of the year.”

Business slows some once the procession begins, Grant said, but many parade-goers will enjoy the air conditioning or patio seating as they watch from the restaurant.

“I can work and also watch the parade,” she said. “It’s just real exciting.”