Nothing creates neighbors like a parade

CATAWBA -- When Marie and Terry Jackson built a house out near the old Harmony cotton gin in southeastern York County more than 30 years ago, the only neighbors were trees.

Generations ago, a train did stop every so often at a place dubbed "Harmony Station," but that was mainly because the gin was still ginning.

But in recent years, more and more people have found that what was once the boondocks is where they want to call home. Yet, people in 2007 are busy. It is tough to find time to meet and know neighbors. Marie Jackson, a neighborly sort, had a brainstorm.

"July 4th parade," she told her husband.

Terry had worked a 12-hour shift that day, so he said what all husbands of 34 years say: "Yes, dear."

Marie, a self-described "procrastinator," waited until July 3 to get the word out around the neighboring houses. "Show up at the gin," were the only instructions.

Marie even called the cops to see if she needed an escort.

The next day, at the long-closed cotton gin, a miracle happened.

Golf carts, go-karts, bicycles, motorcycles and tractors. Trucks and four-wheelers. Some were decorated.

"There must have been 50 of us," Marie said. "Unbelievable. We had more entries than spectators."

But that didn't stop the parade. A deputy provided a police escort.

"We used to be so far out when you saw a policeman you'd think he was lost, and now here's one at our parade," Marie cracked.

The mishmash of new friends hiccupped on Harmony Road then traveled down Greystone Circle. A dash on Donnybrook Road, putter atop Pitts Road, skitter on Skyview Drive, jaunt on Jaycee Drive, then pass Pitts again to the gin.

If there was somebody outside during the route, the parade slowed down and met them. Everybody waved.

If the route was barren, the procession moved on until wavers found somebody to wave to.

All at about 2 mph. One lawn mower quit, so the parade had to stop a bit, so the average speed was closer to 1 mph.

Everybody had such a good time that Marie Jackson dropped another brainstorm on her husband, Terry.

"Christmas parade," she said.

Terry again did what veteran husbands do: What he is told. He got the golf cart ready.

This time, Marie didn't wait until the day before to plan. She distributed about 200 fliers. Marie already has received word, that besides the go-karts, golf carts and tractors, to expect people on horses and even a York County Council member from down the road a piece named Curwood Chappell aboard an ancient Model T Ford.

"She even wants me to put the trailer behind the truck and decorate it as a place for the kids to ride," Terry Jackson said. "Wants a float, my wife does."

Bet she gets her float, too.

The route Sunday is the same as July 4. And after the parade ends, Marie will distribute hot chocolate and cookies at her house. The Macy's Thanksgiving parade in New York doesn't give out cookies and hot chocolate, I can tell you that.

This is still out in the country. The neighboring hamlet of Catawba, where people get their mail, is much bigger. Catawba has, besides the post office, a convenience store.

But it is home and now it has a real Christmas parade.

Bob Lamb from around the corner and down the street participated in the summer parade and would not miss this holiday parade for love nor money. What a great way to meet neighbors and catch up with people you already know, Lamb said.

"In the summer, if you could ride it, we had it," Lamb said. "What tickles me now is so many people have said they want to be in it this year. If they all ride in the parade, there won't be anybody left to wave to."