If you think getting ready for a parade just involves decorating a float or making sure you’ve got a good pair of walking shoes, think again.
For Kenny Bullock, the challenge of putting together this year’s Hope Mills Fourth of July parade has already started and won’t be over until the parade concludes on Independence Day.
“The hardest part is getting people to follow the deadlines because of having to do the parade lineup and getting information to the Department of Transportation,’’ said Bullock, director of the Hope Mills Parks and Recreation Department.
Every group or organization that plans to have a float or vehicle in the parade has to fill out an application that is available from the recreation department, which is located at 5770 Rockfish Rd. You can pick one up in person, or if you call 910-426-4109, they will mail one to you.
The application includes a long list of rules and guidelines that anyone taking part in the parade must follow.
One of the biggest challenges the parade faces annually is having to hold it through the heart of the town along a state highway, NC 59. Bullock has to send a letter to the Department of Transportation 60 days prior to the parade to let the state know the road will be affected.
“They do not approve closing the road for the parade because it’s a state highway,’’ Bullock said. “The town has to take full responsibility to close the road and make sure it is closed at the time you are given and opened at the time you specify.’’
In the event of an emergency during the parade, Bullock said various people along the parade route are equipped with radios. There have been times when fire trucks have had to pull out of the parade to respond to an emergency, he said.
The people with radios include first responders, law enforcement and parks department staff.
Many of the rules governing the parade were put in place with spectator safety in mind. One rule stipulates that no one on a float or car in the parade can throw candy or other giveaway items at bystanders.
Bullock said there was a problem with some parents pushing children toward floats to grab candy. A few years ago, there was almost a tragedy when a parent nearly pushed a youngster underneath a passing float.“
Anybody passing out candy on a car, float or firetruck has to have walkers,’’ Bullock. That’s walkers of the human variety, not the devices used by the disabled to help them walk. “The walkers have to be beside their float at all times,’’ Bullock said.
The walkers can then give the candy to people in the crowd so children aren’t darting out trying to grab it.
Another challenge for Bullock and his team is inspecting floats to make sure they are appropriate for the parade. For Fourth of July, the theme is Independence Day celebration, so all floats are required to meet that standard.
The final day to submit an entry is June 15. The parade is at 10 a.m. on July 4, and all floats and vehicles must be lined up at the staging area at Hope Mills Middle School by 9:30 a.m. The parade ends at Rockfish Elementary School.
Bullock and the parade staff check the floats while in line and once again as they leave the staging area. They are also randomly checked while they are on the parade route.
Nothing is allowed to be removed from or added to a float once it has been approved, Bullock said.
“We keep it family-oriented,’’ Bullock said. “It’s an old-time tradition that has been going on in Hope Mills. We want to keep the tradition going.’’
The Fourth of July parade is actually one of the smallest Hope Mills puts on, averaging about 55 to 60 units. The Christmas parade is sometimes almost twice that size with 115 units.
One reason the Fourth of July parade is shorter than most is it has a hard time attracting marching bands during summer.
“Schools are out and the Fort Bragg bands are usually at Fort Bragg,’’ Bullock said, explaining the reason for the lack of bands. “We encourage the floats and vehicles to have music.’’
The town began accepting applications to be in this year’s parade on May 1.
PHOTO CREDIT: Trey Snipes