BOYKIN, SC — For the 19th year, a Christmas parade full of animals, tractors, ooga horns, booming cannons, children and the cross-dresser Fatback Queen rolled through the middle of nowhere in rural Kershaw County and captured the hearts of the thousands who viewed it.
The only thing organized about this parade is disorganization, laughed Rowland Alston, former host of Clemson Universitys Making It Grow and a dignitary on the reviewing stand in downtown Boykin actually a half-dozen wooden old-timey stores and a restaurant at the intersection of two country two-lanes.
Although the annual parade started off on its mile-long route with only clouds in the sky, near the end of the 73-float and vehicle procession a hard rain started to fall.
Quickly, a country music singer atop one of the floats improvised a ditty to the tune of Elvis Presleys Blue Christmas:
Well be actin insaaaaane
In a Chrissstmas of rain.
Though wet, many in the crowd chuckled after all, laughter is a hallmark of the Boykin parade, held in the unincorporated Boykin community, some 40 miles east of Columbia in low-lying pine woods countryside and unplanted soybean fields.
Among the multitudes watching the parade was a 240-pound English mastiff a dog but as big as a baby dinosaur named Diesel. He bolted when a Shriners smoke machine produced a huge cannonlike boom as it drew near.
Here, camo rules, opined spectator Cynthia Wood, 52, of Lake Wateree, noting the garb of many parade watchers. This is so different from all other Christmas parades, just relaxed and laid-back.
For the record, the parade included: a mobile outhouse, a float with a jail cell full of young criminals intended as a warning to wayward youths, a six-horse mounted contingent of blue-coated Union Civil War re-enactors from Lee County, a 55-piece youth marching band from Thomas Sumter Academy, two Santa Clauses wearing green Grinch masks, a Humvee and a float with a picture of dogs baying at the night sky with the slogan Bark the Herald Angels Sing.
Also: numerous John Deere tractors and vintage cars, including a 1971 Mustang Mach 1, a 1950 Plymouth and a 1932 Chevrolet pickup as well as Camden rider Sally Truss, riding sidesaddle atop a huge grey in turn-of-century (that is, 1900) hunting garb, from her polished black boots to black top hat.
Law enforcement officials present included: Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews and wife, Heather, riding in an unmarked black Chevrolet Caprice normally used to catch speeders, as well as a contingent from the SC Department of Natural Resources and members of the SC State Guard military police unit in Camden.
Boykins unofficial mayor Bruce Jackson, who wore a red sash, proclaimed himself satisfied with the parade, which is usually marked by at least one breakdown of a float or tractor or old car.
We didnt need any jumper cables today, Jackson said. We had lots of children and lots of dogs. The military. And dogs and children on a lot of the floats.
The parades only acknowledgement of real life came in a poster on one of the floats: Pray for all the families that lost children in the tragedy CT.
Summing it up was onlooker Ronnie Knight, 51, of Red Hill, as he sipped a Natural Light: Best parade Ive ever seen, and Ive seen a bunch.
Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344.