Johnsonville Fourth of July parade celebrates 37th year in Rock Hill

adouglas@heradonline.comJuly 4, 2013 

Parade-goers swathed in patriotic gear chanted “U.S.A.,” sang “God Bless America” and crowned a new Johnsonville Queen on Thursday afternoon during one of Rock Hill’s longest-running Fourth of July neighborhood parades.

The 37th annual Johnsonville Parade kicked off at noon as Mike Fuller – husband of Laura Fuller, whose father founded the tradition – rang a bell in his yard, signaling more than 200 Camp Cherokee children and teenagers to start their march down Forest Lane.

Children on bikes and tricycles pedaled around the neighborhood as teens followed with huge American flags and elaborate costumes they’d been planning for months.

Camp Cherokee Director John Gordon said the Johnsonville Parade is one of the hallmarks of his camp’s two-week session.

The closing ceremony for campers will be Friday.

The teens put a lot of thought toward their attire for the event, he said.

“Goodwill has no stock inventory because of this,” Gordon said of the teens’ patriotic wear.

Most popular this year were “jorts”– cutoff jean shorts.

“They were the first American clothing symbol,” said 17-year-old Mackenzie Pearson, whose outfit was pulled together to include “jorts” from Goodwill; red, white and blue stockings from a Myrtle Beach skate shop; and patriotic accessories from Claire’s.

The Fullers stood by with friends Rob and Judy Ferguson as Pearson and the other campers set off from Forest Lane, down Beverly Drive, to Ascot Ridge Road near Winthrop Lake to Sumter Avenue to complete a neighborhood loop.

The Fergusons have only missed one Johnsonville Parade over the past 37 years, they said.

They raised their children on Beverly Drive and no longer live in Johnsonville, but tradition and community spirit keep them coming back, they said.

On Thursday morning, the couple got a call from their son living in Beaufort, who was sad because he was missing the celebration, Judy Ferguson said.

The parade started as a joke when Laura Fuller’s father, “Big John” Johnson, sent his son and his friends around the neighborhood banging pots and pans and encouraging residents to join in.

The Fergusons remember the first pots-and-pans parade.

“They were knocking on doors,” Judy Ferguson said. “They just said, ‘We’re having a parade; y’all come on down.’ ”

In 1976, there weren’t many activities in Rock Hill on Independence Day, so the Johnsonville Parade was probably birthed out of boredom, Laura Fuller said.

“Back in the day, they’d do major floats and stuff,” she said.

Now, the parade includes cars, golf carts and bikes and trikes – all decked out to celebrate the Fourth of July.

This year was Mike Fuller’s 19th year running the event.

“It’s all about the kids,” he said. “They have a ball.”

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Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068

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