ELLERBE – Streets in Ellerbe were closed Saturday morning as tractors, antique vehicles, Model T mini cars and horses took over for the 22nd annual Farmer’s Day Parade.
People from all over the county came out to watch the parade, which is held in celebration of all Richmond County farmers. The town of Ellerbe was chosen for the parade due to it being the farm hub of the area.
It all began 22 years ago when the Cooperative Extension joined forces with USDA Farm Service Agency. They decided to join troops and put together a parade as part of Farm City Week, which has been an on-going tradition to celebrate and honor local farmers. There is no entry fee to participate in the parade.
“The parade started out with 60 entries, and now we have around 160 entries” stated USDA Farm Service Agency county executive director Amy Yaklin. “This year’s theme was ‘Shake the Hand That Feeds You, Eat Local.
“We try to pick Grand Marshals who are seasoned in the area of farming and who contribute to the community,” Yaklin added.
This is Yaklin’s last year with the agency, as she will be retiring in December. After years of trying to persuade her parents, Lowell and Frances Hill to take the honor of Grand Marshal, they finally agreed to participate in this year’s parade since it is Yaklin’s last.
“Our roots are here, it’s just home to us and we love it,” Frances Hill said. The Hills grew up in Ellerbe and have been farming all their lives.
Hundreds of people lined up on both sides of Main Street in picture-perfect weather to watch the annual parade. Four-year old Paisley Blake was with her grandmother Penny Wallace as she patiently awaited the parade to begin.
“This is the first time my family has attended the parade, we had a great time,” Wallace said. “This will be the beginning of a tradition for our family.”
Ellerbe Town Council members Jean Fletcher and Jeremy McKenzie also attended the parade. Fletcher noted that the parade is a big celebration that she and the town look forward to every year.
“This is one of the biggest turnouts in the town of Ellerbe where we can all come together as a family,” McKenzie said. “And we want to thank all of the farmers for everything they continue to do.”
The parade began with the Richmond Senior High School band ushering in the Grand Marshals, as they rode by in an antique Chevrolet truck. Chris Yaklin rolled along next in line on his antique John Deere tractor, with Mayor Lee Berry following.
The crowd enjoyed the mass variety of walking and driving parade participants. Eight-year-old Madison McPherson was among the many who collected candy that was tossed out. Mrs. Clause was ushered in on a float, as Santa Clause tailed along behind her in a firetruck at the closing of the parade. This year’s parade has been the biggest parade to date.
Berry has been participating in the parade for five years and looks forward to it each year as it brings people into the small farm town of Ellerbe.
“Ellerbe is the backbone of agriculture for Richmond County, and I like to showcase our city,” Berry explained. “It’s a great time to do so during the Farmer’s Day Parade.”
Berry also mentioned Ellerbe’s Hometown Christmas, another event which Ellerbe will host on Friday, December 1. Merchants will be open for business between the hours of 5 and 8 p.m. with door prizes to be given away, the town lighting of the Christmas tree, and Mr. and Mrs. Clause to greet the children. Berry invites all to come out and join in on the event.
Ellerbe was the previous home of professional wrestler, Andre the Giant as well as Nascar driver, Benny Parsons, and the first African American North Carolina Supreme Court Judge Henry Frye.