New trailer unveiled for popular Oriental Band

John Thompson • Dec 2, 2018 at 12:16 AM

ELIZABETHTON — The Oriental Band of the Jericho Temple has always been about fun and entertaining the public, but it also has a more important mission — promoting the Shriners’ prime mission of helping disabled children to walk again.

The band had its beginning in 1953, and since that time, the band has made frequent appearances not just in their home parade in Elizabethton, but also at parades in Kingsport; Bristol; Erwin; Mountain City; Elk Park, North Carolina; Abingdon, Virginia; and several others win the region.

Unfortunately, as the members age and fewer younger recruits are brought in, it has become increasingly more difficult for the the band members to keep marching.

But now a solution has come for those men who marched all those miles to help disabled children. A new float was unveiled at the Elizabethton Christmas Parade that will allow the band members to ride instead of march.

The band had already been riding in some parades, thanks to the loan of a 14-foot trailer. But that was not big enough for the band’s needs.

The band’s famed belly dancer, Ray Burchfield, discussed the need for the band’s own trailer with the band’s president, Bob Carroll. They then began talking up the idea. They figured this was going to be a long-range project, but things fell in place quickly.

First was the acquisition of a trailer. They were lucky enough to discover a man who had recently suffered a loss when a tree fell on his 30-foot camper. Carroll said that while the tree had destroyed the camper portion, the underlying trailer was not damaged at all. He said the man wanted $1,200 for it but when he found out the purpose to which it was going to be used, he accepted $600 for it.

Now the group had a wrecked camper. Burchfeld said Carroll could see beyond the wreckage and immediately drew out on paper how a band trailer could be built using the salvageable parts.

Things might have stayed at that point for some time, except Burchfield decided to talk to Bob Cable, one of Elizabethton’s legendary movers and shakers. Burchfield told Cable about what the trailer was going to be used. Cable asked how much money the band needed for the renovations. Burchfield told him about $3,000 to $4,000.

The next thing Burchfield knew, Cable made an appearance before the Elizabethton City Council and was successful in getting a city donation of $3,500 to pay for the project. Cable then got a promise from Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford to provide workers from the Carter County Jail to make the renovations. Work space was found in the old diesel classroom of the Herman Robinson Campus of the Tennessee College of Applied Technology Elizabethton.

Carroll said four trustys from the Carter County Jail did a great job in taking Carroll’s plans and turning them into reality. But the men needed something to work with, and Burchfield said Big John’s Closeouts and its owner, Mike Barnett, did a great job in providing the material to build the trailer from the frame up, Including some beautiful flooring. Burchfield said much of the material was donated by Barnett.

Others who helped in the effort were Norwell Contractors and Harbor Frieight.

The trailer is nearly complete, but was ready enough for its unveiling in Elizabethton’s Christmas Parade. Fortunately, the float finished its route and was already back under cover at the temple before the rains hit. That would have been bad, because the flooring is untreated wood.

That brought Carroll and Burchfield to the final need for the float. IT is currently stored undercover, but needs to be parked in an indoor facility that can accommodate the trailer’s 30 foot length.

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