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China Grove bigger and better than ever

Linda Thrash shaded her eyes as she stood along the crowded side of Lockheed Martin Road. She was watching for the first glimpse of the 2009 edition of the China Grove Fourth of July Parade.

“I look forward to this parade all year long,” Thrash said. “I can’t wait because it’s so much fun.”

The temperature Saturday climbed steadily from 90 degrees to 91 and 92 but folks stopped counting because it didn’t matter. If the temperature had reach 110 the parade would have gone on and so would the fun.

“It’s never too hot in China Grove,” Martin Williamson said. “I’d come no matter what.”

And, he wouldn’t be by himself.

People came from near and far. They were all ages and all sizes and shapes but they all had one thing in common.

“We love a parade, and this one is unique,” Williamson said. “It’s just a lot of people have a lot of fun in a simple kind of way.”

Diane LaFountaine said the parade was the biggest in the 10-year history of the parade that began as a neighborhood parade with children riding their decorated bikes down the road.

“Last year we had about 150 entries, and I’d guess that we’ve got 200 or more this year,” she said. “There has been a lot of interest and enthusiasm surrounding the parade and I can’t believe the number of people that are here. They have come from everywhere and we just appreciate the fact that people enjoy coming to China Grove and that so many make it their Fourth of July destination every year.”

Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford said he has been riding in the parade for five years.

“I come first because it’s fun and also because the mayor of Troy should come to an event like this that brings so much positive attention to our county,” he said. “We brought some friends from Eufaula, and they just can’t believe it. It’s even bigger than they could have imagined.”

The mayor’s wife, Faye, said not only is the parade fun but the gathering is like a big community reunion.

“You see people that you have seen in a long time and we just enjoy seeing everybody and in such a fun atmosphere,” she said.

Pike County Sheriff Russell Thomas said people come to have a good time and they appreciate the opportunity to spend the Fourth of July with friends and family.

“With all the people here and all the traffic – horses, cars and motorcycles sharing the same road – we’ve never had a bit of trouble,” he said. “People are here to have a good time, enjoy each other and celebrate this great country of ours and nobody wants to do anything to spoil it. That’s a tribute to all who come.”