Holiday shopping, Christmas parade kick off season

Published 3:19 pm Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Poplarville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Christmas parade, with its special visit from Santa Claus, is getting ready to fill the streets with holiday cheer Friday, and Mark Bridgers, parade coordinator said there is still time to sign up for the parade.

The sign-up deadline is Wednesday evening. The entry fee is $20 with completed application.

The parade unofficially kicks off the Poplarville Christmas season but area merchants started their preparations earlier in anticipation of the after-Thanksgiving sales push of Black Friday.

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Mark Bridgers, owner of the Poplarville Radio Shack store and coordinator of the Chamber’s Christmas parade, said Black Friday customers “weren’t breaking the doors down,” but his staff had been busy since opening at 5:30 a.m. that Friday.

“It’s been brisk,” Bridgers said. “It’s probably down a little bit (from past years), but not terrible.” He said sales at his store this year were down slightly from last year “but were still good.”

Bob Applewhite, owner of Apple’s, Ltd., said Friday sales started out as good as they were last year.

Apple’s opened at 6 a.m. with a special extra 15 percent savings on purchases from 6 a.m.-8 p.m. Sales dropped off some after the opening rush, then but picked up again around noon, he said.

“It was steady,” Applewhite said Friday morning. “We haven’t had the gains that we were used to having (in past years) because every year we’d have 5- to 10-percent gain, but we’ve held our own (this year), we haven’t lost.”

On Monday, Pam LaHaye with Apple’s said they were very pleased with the final results of Friday and Saturday’s business.

“It went well,” she said. “We did a little bit better than last year.”

When asked if the store planned to remain open longer this Friday because of crowds expected for the parade, LaHaye said they were not, with a closing time at 6. p.m. She said shoppers in the past tried to come in prior to parade time before traffic congestion became an issue.

Both stores are located in the center of the city along Main Street.

Bridgers said that for the parade city police will begin blocking traffic to Main Street around 5 p.m. to allow the procession to travel the mile and a quarter route north from the high school to its end at the Movie Star plant. The parade begins staging at 3:45 p.m. at Poplarville High School.

A number of lighted floats, many filled with children under adult supervision, are always a treat of the event and many toss candy to the crowds. Area bands, dance groups, horses with riders and other business entries can always be expected to delight parade visitors. Santa Claus rides on a Poplarville fire truck as a special guest of the Chamber of Commerce.

Bridgers said sign-up response for the parade has been good and he anticipates this year’s event to be slightly larger than 2008. He estimated there were at least 50 large entries last year. This year he expects at least 75 to 100 of all entries. The Poplarville High School and Pearl River Community College bands will be marching.

Because of the usually large crowds filled with youngsters eager to grab candy and treats tossed from floats Poplarville Police urge extra caution along the parade route.

Officer Rossie Creel asked people to pay particular attention while the parade is moving and urged parents watch out for young children more intent on catching candy than with safety. He also warned riders on floats to not get off during the parade.

“Every year there are people who still want to jump off a float and run beside it at some point in the parade,” Creel said.

Bridgers, parade coordinator for the Chamber, also urges participants and onlookers to be careful around the moving floats and observe safety rules. No one is allowed to stop the parade, he says, and once the parade has started no one is allowed to get on or off floats. Also, no 3- or 4-wheelers are allowed in the parade.

Bridgers says all entries must finish the entire parade route of approximately a mile and a quarter. If participants need to return to the high school after the parade ends, a police escort will be available. Otherwise, participants are advised to use U.S. Highway 11 or Mississippi Highway 26 to return home.

Bridgers says if parents are picking up parade participants afterwards that they should know the exact place the groups will be disbanding.

Trailers for horses should be parked behind Movie Star where the horses will be picked up and city police say no horses are to be ridden on streets after the parade. Bridgers says anyone violating this rule will be subject to a fine and not be allowed to take part in future parades.

More parade information is available from Mark Bridgers at 601-795-7032.