01PubPen Spring LakeNo doubt about it! The inaugural Dr. Seuss Parade and Family Fun Day, which celebrated Read Across America and was held Saturday in Spring Lake, was a huge success. Tad Davis, Spring Lake’s town manager, was glowing with pride at the way the Spring Lake community turned out to support this significant reading and educational awareness celebration. Davis agreed that the organizing of the “first anything” is always a challenge, but, once the commitment was made and the foundation was laid, everyone was on board for making it a success and growing it year after year.  

My personal “cat in the hat” is off to Kristy Sykes, owner of Kameo Events, who took the initiative to create and coordinate the Dr. Seuss Parade and Family Fun Day and the Dr. Seuss Dinner and a Book Birthday party that was held Thursday before the parade. She worked closely with Davis and Spring Lake Parks & Rec Manager Sam Jones with an end result that shows much future potential. One of Saturday’s highlights for me was meeting North Carolina’s first lady, Kristin Cooper, who served as the parade’s grand marshal. An avid supporter of teachers, literacy and education, her warm, enthusiastic and congenial personality fit perfectly into the excitement of the Dr. Seuss celebration. I was impressed. 

For her to give up her Saturday to come to a Cumberland County municipality to bring attention to this worthy cause speaks volumes of her and Gov. Roy Cooper’s commitment to teachers, children and North Carolina education.  Even though she was welcomed graciously by Town Manager Tad Davis, Spring Lake Mayor Chris Rey, State Representative Marvin Lucas and Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Dr. Frank Till Jr. However, I was surprised and disappointed that more Fayetteville city and county elected officials and community business leaders were not on hand to meet Ms. Cooper and welcome her to Cumberland County. Especially those involved with the Cumberland County Democratic Party. Another glaring absence was that of the Cumberland County Association of Educators. It was rumored they were hosting another reading-related event in Fayetteville but attempts to find out the where and when were unsuccessful. In any case, they missed a perfect opportunity to showcase their organization and the community. So did the Spring Lake Chamber of Commerce, whose absence was conspicuous during both the parade and the Family Fun Day. 

Local community events of this nature are, in most cases, sponsored and supported by the local Chamber of Commerce and affiliated businesses and organizations.  Well, thankfully, many Spring Lake businesses did step up to participate. The newly reopened Bragg Mutual Federal Credit Union led the way as the events title sponsor. Bill Drewry, Bragg Mutual’s marketing and development manager, was very pleased with the first-year outcome and turnout of over 3,000 attendees. “This is a very special event for us,”  he said. “And we are very excited about the first-year participation. This event was perfect for us because our credit union serves both Spring Lake businesses and families. The Town of Spring Lake has done a superb job supporting us here at the Credit Union and in making sure the Dr. Seuss Parade and Family Fun Day was a fun, exciting and successful family event. We’ll be back next year!”  

But how do you measure the success of a first-time event like this? Do you consider the number of people attending? The number of marching bands or parade floats? How many cartoon character mascots are running around doing silly things? Or maybe the number of food trucks willing to set up in the parking lot? My point is that no doubt some people may have shown up Saturday morning with expectations and in anticipation of seeing something spectacular like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. And, I’m also sure some folks showed up not even aware of the Read Across America initiative or knowing what the Dr. Seuss connection to reading and education is all about. And I’m sure they were disappointed. To this, I say, “Too bad, so sad!” 

Here is the reality of it: You measure the success of an event like this by the faces, smiles and laughter of the children themselves. This event was not conceived or designed to appease, please or impress adults. It is a program for children. Organizers wanted to showcase the community. They wanted children to have fun, read more, study more, be more loving and sensitive toward others, do good deeds and practice good character traits. Those who have the unappreciative audacity to be critical of the parade size or the number of participating costumed characters or parade floats just “don’t get it!” Period. 

Again, Congratulations, Spring Lake. You did it!  Kristy Sykes, you da girl! Nice work on the event and a very, very special thank you for bringing North Carolina’s first lady, Kristin Cooper to our community. What an honor. So, like Bill Drewry said, “We’ll be back next year.”

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