‘It’s normalcy’: Eclipse parade returns

Published 8:24 pm Monday, July 5, 2021

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The last time Addison Weddell was at the Eclipse fourth of July parade, she was just 6 months old.

Two years later, at age two-and-a-half, Addison was bouncing around in her blue shirt and pink skirt, giddy at the candy being tossed her way as the parade passed by her and her family.

“More candy,” Addison kept saying as she grabbed the treats in front of her older brother Hayden and parents Chris and Stephanie, who came from Driver to watch. Later, after seeing her haul, and repeating after her mother, she was in awe.

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“Oh my goodness,” Addison said.

And her overall assessment of the candy and the parade?

“That’s so cool.”

The Weddell family, who staked out a spot near the start of the parade, have been coming to see it yearly, and when it returned this year, they knew they were coming back.

“It’s normalcy,” Stephanie Weddell said. “It feels like there’s some sense of normal again.”

Though a little smaller than in years past, and held July 3, the parade still drew crowds of people who lined the streets in the village as the sirens from the vehicles of first responders echoed in front of children riding their bicycles, those riding in golf carts and officials riding in antique cars.

After the parade was not held last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, it returned, though parade organizers had to make a few adjustments.

For starters, due to a July 4 outdoor service being held at Ebenezer United Methodist Church — the parade staging area — the parade was moved to the day before.

And, because the church, which hosts the parade and provides the staging area for the village fireworks show, had usually gotten the parade permit from the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, they had to put in a last-minute permit request. Because of that, they didn’t have as much time to put on a bigger show.

But as Eclipse resident Kelly Hengler said, everyone from the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, to Ebenezer to the Crittenden, Eclipse and Hobson Ruritan Club to the Crittenden, Eclipse and Hobson Civic League, to James River Community Church, Virginia Farm Bureau Insurance in Suffolk and the village residents as a whole, came together to help the village put on another special event.

Hengler said she and Claudia Holland, co-presidents of the civic league, were nearly in tears over the turnout.

“No matter what, we were going to have it,” Hengler said. “Claudia and I were just overjoyed that people could just come out.”

And the changes hardly dampened anyone’s spirits.

“It’s a great community event — happy to be back,” said Eclipse resident Joel Andrus, who was riding a bicycle with his children and other relatives. His 4-year-old daughter, Teddie, was riding for the first time.

Nearby, Eclipse residents Skye and Chuck Anderson, watching the parade with their 2-year-old lab mix, Gunnison, also enjoyed its return.

“It’s wonderful,” Skye Anderson said. “This little village is just an amazing place. Everybody knows everybody, everybody loves everybody, and the Fourth of July is like Christmas here.”

Ben LoPresti, pastor of James River Community Church, said it was thrilled to be a part of the festivities, providing refreshments for people during the parade.

“We love this neighborhood, we love this community, we love being part of it,” LoPresti said. “We love God, and we love being able to represent God and the love of God to the neighborhood and the community here.

“It’s a lot of fun. We love seeing people walk by, be together after a long space of not being able to be together. It was really exciting, really fun. Kids loved it, parents loved it, so we’re just really grateful.”

Brian Webber and Bill Cary, representing Ebenezer United Methodist Church, said they were happy to have the parade back in the village. The church was also the staging area for the fireworks show on Sunday.

“We’re delighted to be able to host the parade again this year,” Webber said, “and very gratified that we’ve gotten to the point where we can do it again.”