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Patriotic parade steams through town
Steam Engine Parade 10 es
Jessica Wright helps son Blake cover his ears Saturday morning as steam engines rumble through downtown Cumming during the Thomas-Mashburn Steam Engine Parade. In the foreground, Shelby Johnson watches the engines pass. - photo by Emily Saunders
If Uncle Sam had to pick a city that truly embodied the spirit of the Fourth of July, there’s a good chance it would be Cumming.

After the annual firework show at the Cumming Fairgrounds concluded Friday night, it was only a matter of hours until families from far and wide set up camp along Tribble Gap and Castleberry roads for the annual Thomas-Mashburn Steam Engine parade.  

Colors of red, white, and blue filled the sidewalks Saturday morning as families tried to secure the best spot to watch the patriotic procession.

The Cochran family has been making the trip to Cumming for 14 years.

“It’s something we do every year, even as the kids get bigger,” said Kathleen Cochran, who also made the 20-minute drive from Milton for the fireworks the night before.

Her two sons, Eric and Brian, have sat in their lawn chairs along the street since they were toddlers.

While the candy thrown from the various floats and vehicles used to be the big draw, the grown boys agreed on their new favorite part of the parade: the steam engines.

Indeed, the engines were in fine form Saturday morning, announcing their presence with blaring whistles and churning engines.  

Joel Webb took the helm of the first steam engine, a 1912 45-horsepower Case, just as his great-grandfather, A.G. Thomas, did in 1958, the inaugural year of the parade.

“It’s fun, this is a family,” said Webb, adding that the operators of the steam engine fleet are a tight-knit group. “Everybody knows everybody.”

For the children, it’s what’s on the back of the steam engines that mattered. Groups from across the county ride trailers full of hay and throw candy into the waiting hands of children.

Cierra Cody, 12, easily named her favorite part of the parade.

“Getting all of the candy,” said Cody, who is from Roswell.

Abbi Wielputz, 11, and Dakota Mooney, 10, were happy to supply Cody and others with more than their daily dose of refined sugar. Better yet, children didn’t have to do too much work to get it.

“You just need to wave,” said Wielputz, who has been riding on the Crossroads Church trailer for years.   

For adults, it was the tradition of the parade that brought them out Saturday morning. Even if that tradition had been put on a hiatus.

Teresa Whitehead, a Forsyth Central graduate, made her way back to the parade after years of living in Boston and Dallas. Now back in Cumming, she was happy to be watching the parade.

“It’s very exciting,” Whitehead said. “This is just such a great tradition.”

Some parade participants were starting a new tradition. For the first year, the Forsyth Pipe and Drum group took up its snare drums and bagpipes and led the parade procession.

“It means a lot to be a part of it, rather than watching,” said Ron Turner, who hopes they can continue to be a part of the celebration.