The Ghost of Christmas Past

Graphic created by MVL®/

(This is Part 2 of a 3-part series.) 

Mooresville’s Christmas parade has remained largely the same for 79 (going on 80) years. The direction it travels was flip-flopped years ago; it now starts on North Main Street and travels to the site of Merino Mill, formerly Burlington Mills. The parade committee in recent years also changed the start time to make more time for participants to make it through the 1.5-mile parade (with at least 125 entries) before nightfall.Other than that, not much has changed about the Christmas parade, and people cherish its nostalgia. 

“There’s a lot of community pride” that marches down Main Street with civic organizations, churches, neighbors, floats and marching bands on the day of the parade, said John Amon, a longtime Mooresville resident and Main Street business/building owner who has spent three decades volunteering for the parade alongside his family.

John Amon has volunteered for the Mooresville Christmas Parade for three decades. (Photo courtesy of the Mooresville Christmas Parade Committee)

The Town of Mooresville started the parade in 1944. When Christmas parades started being held in several local communities, they got together and decided on dates that each would hold their parades to keep them from conflicting. Mooresville picked the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and has held to that tradition even when most other towns have changed the dates of their parades.

In the 1950s, the town turned the parade over to the Mooresville Jaycees which, in turn, used the highly anticipated event as a fundraiser for the civic organization. 

Photo: Arby Brannon

But now, the parade is organized and run by a small group of volunteers. This year, that committee consisted of fewer than a dozen people.

2023 Mooresville Christmas Parade Committee (Photo courtesy of the Mooresville Christmas Parade Committee)

Though town chatter suggests that the parade was possibly canceled once in the 1940s because of World War II, it was definitely canceled in 2020 because of Covid. Even then — and even though it didn’t happen — Amon said he was in favor of holding a “stationary” parade, where floats and cars could set up in the Merino Mill parking lot, and the usual parade spectators could experience a “drive through” parade of sorts. 

“The parade is steeped in tradition,” said Dave Sopp, who moved to Mooresville from California almost 20 years ago and, along with his family of creatives, has spent most of the years loving, marketing and promoting Mooresville, especially its downtown area.

Amon encouraged Sopp’s involvement on the parade committee in part to help modernize and market it a bit. “We wanted to bring technology to the forefront but still maintain the historical component,” said Amon. “We are always looking for ways to make the experience better.”

This year, that resulted in more efficient registration operations, a parade viewing guide and a smoother drop-off process for parents with kids in the parade. 

The parade committee is modernizing operations. (Photo courtesy of the Mooresville Christmas Parade Committee)

Sopp’s marketing with the Grinch from Greenworks, the parade’s title sponsor, also grew excitement and anticipation leading up to the main event this year. The Grinch was featured in fun video updates that involved many of the brick-and-mortar businesses that have a larger presence in the parade. 

“We loved including the parade participants in that,” said Sopp. “We were out and about to engage the whole town. That’s part of community.”

But while some of the “backend” of the parade was modernized, Sopp said, the parade committee agreed that the part of the parade that people enjoy every year didn’t need to be updated. “The parade is on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and it’s so long. It’s weird, and it’s quirky, but that’s why we love it,” he said. 

Mooresville Chamber of Commerce photo

People have braved sleet, snow and rain to be at the Mooresville Christmas parade, and they love to reminisce about “that one time,” Sopp said. That’s one thing that makes the parade fun and special.

Added Amon: People who brave inclement weather for the parade “wear that like a badge of honor that they maintain for the rest of their life.” 

One time, he recalled, it was snowing on parade day, and the floats couldn’t make it to Main Street. He said parade enthusiasts rounded up every pickup truck they could find and decorated them. The parade marched — er, rolled — on. “They figured it out,” Amon said. “That’s commitment — that’s the badge of honor.”

Photo: O.C. Stonestreet, Jr.

But while honoring the past, parade organizers are not slaves to tradition, Sopp said. “It’s more about the question: What is the culture here?”

Edward Kipka photo
Photo courtesy of Cindy Jacobs

While tradition may be one of the more emotionally compelling reasons to continue holding the parade on an admittedly weird day of the week and at a weird time, the small committee of parade volunteers also has to juggle logistics that Amon said make it almost impossible to schedule the parade on a different day — that is, if the town wants to keep the same wildly popular and well-attended parade it has enjoyed for decades. Likewise, Amon and Sopp explained, having a rain date is far easier said than done.


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About Author

Hi! I’m Jaime

I was a newspaper reporter in Mooresville, NC for a decade and covered local government issues from 2003 to 2006.


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