Jamie Rice, president of the young professionals group, said the nativity parade is one of the most popular events RISE has staged and the one for which it has received the most requests for a repeat.
According to Rice, a crowd of at least 1,000 people, including many who came dressed as shepherds and angels, marched along in last year’s parade up North Main Avenue to the front of the First Baptist Church on Love Street.
Joyfully sharing the details, she said, “Last year was the first year and we really didn’t know what to expect. When they were lining up, it came down to me and Tyler (Engle) to tell everyone where they needed to be.
“People kept coming and coming. We didn’t have a megaphone. And Tyler and I were shouting at the top of our voices trying to make them hear us. When it was over we sat around and laughed and laughed because it was so awesome.”
On notice that several Johnson City churches are planning to take part this year, RISE is preparing for an even larger crowd Wednesday evening. And because last year’s pleasant 50-degree parade night weather was a big factor in the turnout, they are hoping Wednesday night will be equally mild. Although, Rice said, a little snow “would be spectacular.”
As it was last year, everyone is invited to bring a candle and march and along behind the holy family, and to join in the spirit of the evening by dressing as an angel or shepherd.
Last year, Rice said angels, shepherds and wise men of all ages joined the procession, ranging from toddlers to one shepherd his who is in his 80s, Erwin Alderman Virgil Moore, who this year has been designated the parade’s “Head Shepherd.”
Two small carriages will carry the tiniest shepherds and angels this year. Everyone will all carry a candle and carols will be sung along the way.
Main Avenue will be lit with luminary bags. Mary and Joseph and the Christ child will lead the three-block walk to the church. And above their heads, specially designated shepherds will hold long staffs topped with paper stars lit with white LED lights.
A live donkey, a small flock of sheep, a cow and horse will take their place by the manger scene at the church. Choirs from seven Erwin churches will come together for what Rice described as a “very reverent, acoustic service with guitars and violins.” And the story of Christ’s birth as told in the book of Luke will be read by representatives of several other churches.
After all is said and done, hot chocolate will be served.
The parade will lineup at 6:30 p.m. at the post office at Main and Tucker Street and get underway at 7. Everyone is encouraged to march along and to bring a small white candle to carry.
More information about the parade may be obtained by messaging RISE Erwin on Facebook by or calling Rice at 423-220-7624.
Email Sue Guinn Legg at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.