Hopeful spectators were not disappointed Thursday when the 56thannual Thomas-Mashburn Steam Engine Parade rolled on as planned.
As if the weather had dared them to stay home, families who have made it a tradition to see the steam engines every year braved the forecast to line Castleberry Road for the patriotic procession.
“We come every year,” said Connie Timms, who drove 25 miles from Dahlonega. “[The weather] didn’t stop us.”
Compared to crowds he’d seen at past parades, this one was only “a little smaller,” said Forsyth County Sheriff’s Sgt. Jeff Gresser.
That view was shared by Cumming Administrator Gerald Blackburn, who walked the route handing out candy.
“Considering the threat of rain and thunder, it’s a really good crowd,” Blackburn said.
Parade organizer Cindy Hansard was “tickled with the crowds.”
“It’s the best weather we’ve had in years. It was nice and cool,” she said. “We had a good crowd.”
Despite much speculation throughout the week, the rain couldn’t spoil either of Cumming’s annual Fourth of July events.
Though heavy showers fell throughout the day, the city was able to get in its fireworks show Wednesday night. Then Thursday, not a drop of rain dampened the mood as the steam engines made their way down Castleberry, loud whistles howling, from Forsyth Central High School to the Cumming Fairgrounds.
“We’ve been to the parade every year for forever,” said Varessa Butts, an 18-year resident of Cumming.
Many spectators continued the same tradition, saying they had been attending Fourth of July celebrations for as far back as they could remember. And the cloudy skies offered parade-goers a reprieve from the seasonal heat.
Some families came out for the first time, inspired by the city’s determination to keep the steam engines rolling.
Bill and Deb Knotts, who’ve lived in Cumming for 13 years, hadn’t made it out to a parade in the past because they were busy preparing for visits from children and grandchildren.
“We don’t have any activities this Fourth of July, so we came to the parade this time,” Bill Knotts said.
It was also the first parade for the Brantley family of four.
“I wanted to teach them what Independence Day was about,” said Stella Brantley, a 10-year resident of Cumming.
Some traveled from much farther, including the LaLiberte family from New Hampshire who were visiting relatives in Cumming.
Vic LaLiberte said his family usually goes to Fourth of July parades filled with marching bands and floats, but he thought the steam engines were “just as good.”
Some families celebrated while remembering those who couldn’t be there. The Mauldin family came as it does every year, but without their 21-year-old son, who is stationed with the U.S. Army in Fort Lee, Va.
“It’s something we’ve come out to before. My son came with us last year. I’m really missing him,” Janet Mauldin said.
Just getting the family together to enjoy the parade is what some residents come for every year.
“It’s a family celebration,” said Roni Hauptman, a longtime resident of Cumming, who brought her four grandchildren from South Carolina and Virgina. “I’ll come until I can’t come myself.”
For others, the novelty of the steam engines is a special experience. One Cumming resident said he’s tried for years to convince his family to come. Though they didn’t join him, he enjoyed the parade Thursday with friends.
“That’s the main thing I try to tell them about,” Tim Roberts said. “Most people don’t know about the steam engines, so it’s real awesome to see them. And it’s good to see that they’re teaching the younger generation about them so they’ll have someone to drive them next year.”
After more than 47 parades, Homer and Myrtice Long were surprised. “It’s gotten a lot better over the years,” she said.
After the parade, Hansard and other organizers were pleased.
“There wasn’t much worrying I could do. We had the steam engines ready and we were going to go rain or shine,” she said. “Now I’m calm.”