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Patriotic parade packs downtown
Arrive early, bring ear plugs
Steam Engine Rollin 3 es
David Moore, right, drives friends and family on his steam engine during the 2009 parade in downtown Cumming. - photo by File photo


The annual Thomas-Mashburn Steam Engine Parade sets out at 10 a.m. Saturday from Forsyth Central High School. The procession will travel south along Castleberry Road before ending at the Cumming Fairgrounds. For more information, contact (770) 781-3491 or go online at


* City offers two days of Fourth fun.

* Dance contest follows fireworks. 

* Turtles race Saturday afternoon.

* Merchants ready for crowds. 

Richard Webb has watched the Thomas-Mashburn Steam Engine Parade for all of his 50 years, most of them from atop the city of Cumming’s original engine.

From his perch, Webb said he sees “the same folks that [I’ve] seen for 50 years and some new people too.”

Cumming will hold its 53rd annual Independence Day parade at 10 a.m. Saturday. The event will feature more than an hour of candy, floats and, of course, those cheerful steam engines.

Webb will ride on the engine of his great-grandfather, A.G. Thomas.

The elder Thomas began the tradition in 1957, when he put an American flag on his engine and drove it around the downtown square.

At about age 3, Thomas bought the “little bitty engine” still seen in the parade for his great-grandson, who said he graduated to riding on the big engine in 1977.

This year, Webb’s two sons, ages 14 and 20, will drive the family heirloom.

The parade has become the centerpiece of the annual Thomas extended family reunion that follows the procession each year.

“It’s a big family tradition,” Webb said. “We’re proud people still like it.”

Over its history, the procession has drawn larger crowds as well as many more engines, all owned and operated by local residents.

Several floats follow the engines, including the city’s, which has been decorated to commemorate its 175th anniversary this year.

Mayor H. Ford Gravitt said the parade is his favorite part of celebrating America’s birthday.

“It’s part of the history of our own community,” he said, noting that the city has the biggest collection of street-ready steam engines in the nation.

With this being an election year, Gravitt expects the parade will also feature many politicians on floats.

Dave Horton, Cumming Fairgrounds administrator, said he’s been watching some of the same engines pass by since he was a child. Still, the riders on the floats and engines remain a surprise.

“You never know until they go by who’s going to be on them,” he said.

Horton’s advice for the parade was simple: bring ear plugs.

“The engines are loud when you’re up close,” he said.

Since the parade can get crowded, Gravitt said some families park their vehicles Friday night to ensure a spot for the following morning’s procession.

“Everybody’s invited to come and picnic and tailgate,” he said. “People can sit anywhere in town to get a glimpse of the parade.”