“Let millionaire and pauper meet, and go marching down the street. The lid is off, fun is rife, let’s have the best time of your life,” exclaims a 1930’s Greenbrier County newspaper article exert. What could this obscure article possibly be referring? The New Year’s Shanghai Parade on Washington Street, of course!
Mired in deep history and questionable roots, the parade is a festival unlike any other. Open to all of those who wish to participate, the parade is a rich mosaic of costumes, candy, farm tractors, parade floats, horses, marching bands, fire trucks, antique cars, with at least one canine thrown into the mix. Honestly, you really never know what you’ll see, hear, or smell walking down Washington Street during this annual parade.
The history of the parade is an enigma unto itself, with some believing the Shanghai parade dates back to the late 1800’s, while others believe the festival is even older. Dr. H. B. Graybill, a local scholar who taught at the Greenbrier College for Women in the Lewisburg area during the early 20th century, researched the history of the Shanghai parade in depth. According to his studies, the parade dates back to the mid 1800’s, and has Scotch-Irish and German ties. Whatever the case may be, the parade is older than anyone of us, and should continue to flourish for another 100 years and beyond.
Leading the parade is the beautiful and wide-eyed baby New Year. A newborn child the baby New Year is not, but in fact, a grown man who is young at heart. For the past several years, the Lewisburg Fire Chief has been appointed for this task, and it is worth attending the parade for this sight alone. You might even ask yourself if his rosy cheeks are due to embarrassment, or the fact that it’s just too darn cold outside to be dressed only in a diaper and a sash.
The parade marshal, who historically is positioned in the front of a traditional parade, brings up the rear in this odd and jovial affair. Nicknamed the “super duper pooper scooper”, the Shanghai parade marshal is typically equipped with a shovel and wheelbarrow, cleaning up the remainder of the preceding 365 days, among other things left behind during the parade, providing a clean slate for a fresh start to the New Year.
Making sure that prime spot for viewing and slack-jawed gawking is intact, parade attendants are urged to get to the parade path well before it commences. Participants are required to sign up the morning of the parade, lining up on Lee Street for the festive jaunt to Church Street along the Washington St. route. Prizes will be awarded in several categories, in addition to a crisp $2 bill awarded to all of the parade’s participants. The parade begins Tuesday, January 1st, at 12pm, with attendants measuring somewhere between 1500-2000 people. We can’t think of a better way to ring in 2013!
– Craig Miller, LBSPY #22 (Dec 17-31)