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Parade a family tradition for new and old

When Christi Bronner was a little girl, she used to decorate her pink bike with red, white and blue streamers for the annual Fourth of July parade held in Eclipse each year.

Now a mother, she is bringing her own children out from Virginia Beach every year to attend the parade.

“I remember in elementary school coming out here every year,” Bronner said. “We used to decorate our bikes. They’re some good memories, and now my girls just love being here.”

This year — like all the others — the streets of Eclipse were lined with children and adults of all ages and ties to the community who came out to gather candy and watch as the fire engines, police motorcycles, antique cars and decorated floats, golf carts, ATVs, bikes and scooters wound their way through Eclipse.

“My favorite part is the candy,” said Jordan Stanton, who came well prepared with a plastic bag to collect her booty.

“I remember coming for more than 30 years,” said Misty Stanton, Jordan’s mom. “It’s the best one around. I used to ride in the parade and now my kids do.”

While coming to the parade has been a family tradition for years for many of the people there, more families are just beginning the tradition.

“My kids have been talking about coming to the parade for weeks,” said Ashley Brittain, who has been living in the area for two years. “We rushed over from our church in Hampton to be here on time. After last year, it’s become the highlight of the year for them. They love getting the candy and watching the fire trucks, and it’s a great community event.”

“We heard about it our first year and were told it was a ‘must,’” said Tiffany Stuckey, whose family hasn’t missed a parade since moving to the area six years ago.

“Everyone was so helpful and friendly,” said G.C. Stuckey, Tiffany’s husband. “It’s a great opportunity to get involved and to get to know people. Our daughter has been riding her bike in the parade and our son loves the fire trucks.”

The annual parade began as a bicentennial celebration in 1976, according to Carl LeMon, pastor at Ebenezer United Methodist Church. It is one of the 12 hours of activities held at the church and in the surrounding community.

“It’s an old-fashioned slice of Americana,” LeMon said. “It was the brainchild of the [Crittenden, Eclipse and Hobson] Ruritan Club, and they came to the church in need of a staging area. Ever since, it’s been a priority of ours to support it and continue the tradition.”

The day’s festivities were kicked off with a worship service and opening ceremony at the church. After the parade, there was a children’s bounce-house playground — thanks to the funds from the annual golf tournament — a bake sale and silent auction.

After the annual raft race held on the Chuckatuck Creek in the afternoon, The Last Exit and Nate Sparks performed music until the fireworks display, funded by the Ruritan Club.

“By the end of the day, we’ll have between 3,000 and 5,000 people come out,” LeMon said.

While the event has served to bring many in the community together, LeMon said he hopes that trend will continue and expand into neighboring communities to break down cultural barriers that should have been buried between villages long ago.

“This is not an exclusive to our church,” LeMon said. “This is a community event. We want everyone in our neighborhood to participate. Back in the ‘60s, it used to be that many of the residents in Hobson worked for the residents in Eclipse. We want to break down any walls that might still be there.”

Although many events and people begin to loose steam after 34 years, this small-town parade is going full speed ahead.

“Relatives come out from far and near,” said Bob Earl, who has spent more than 20 years helping organize the event. “People of all ages gather together to show their patriotism to their country. Based on what I’ve seen this year, we have more volunteers than ever and leadership is getting involved with young blood. I don’t see it going anywhere.”