Lily Vial, Marley Ruf and Daisy Vial make sure to put in a good word with Santa Claus before Christmas arrives at last year’s Christmas Art Walk.

SCOUTING AROUND: Christmas parade to honor Special Olympians

   Murphy’s Hometown Christmas Parade will march through downtown Saturday afternoon with bands, floats and very special guests of honor. That’s because Special Olympics athletes will be honored as grand marshals of the parade.
   “It’s exciting, and they’ll be very excited for it,” said Susanne Parker, coordinator for Special Olympics in Cherokee County. “To be grand marshals will be very exciting for them.”
   Longtime parade coordinator Barbara Hughes wanted to bring the athletes to the community’s attention because the Special Olympics is important for her. The spring games for the far-west counties is coming in April to Cherokee County for the first time in more than 10 years.
   Hughes was coordinator for the area games when she was working with special needs children in Cherokee County Schools.
   “Honestly, my life is richer because I got to work with those children,” Hughes said. “Getting to work with those children is not like work.”
   The games, which will be held April 27 at the Murphy High School track, usually include 200 athletes for just athletic, or track and field, events. Athletes come from Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Macon and Swain counties as well as the Qualla boundary. Cherokee County also will get to host the games in 2019.
   “It’s a real big deal,” Parker said. “The athletes are really excited.”
   Special Olympics will need the community’s support for volunteers and sponsors. The organization needs to raise thousands of dollars to provide T-shirts for participants, equipment for the games, and food for all athletes, buddies and volunteers.
   “It gets expensive,” Parker said.
   Anyone who would like to volunteer or sponsor the games can email Parker at susanne.parker@cherokee.k12.nc.us, call Peachtree Elementary School at 837-2479 or reach her at 557-0869.
   Murphy’s holiday festivities begin with the annual Christmas Tree Lighting on the square downtown from 6-7 p.m. Friday.
   “That has turned out to a hugely popular event,” Hughes said. “It’s just so exciting to see everyone ‘oooing’ and ‘ahhing’ over the Christmas tree.”
   The event begins with the tree lighting at 6 p.m. It continues with singing performances by Dot Ann Russell, music director at Murphy Bible Church, as well as Isaac Brown and Hope Ledford, two youngsters who have performed at the event ever since Hughes got involved.
   The evening also will include the Jingle Bell Walk, presented by the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce.
   “It’s something really simple, but the children just love,” Hughes said.
   The event will conclude with students from The Learning Center charter school singing three songs. One will announce the arrival of Santa Claus, who will have a fire truck act as his reindeer and sleigh for the night.
   As it is the first Friday of the month, downtown businesses also will host artists for the Valley River Arts Guild’s Art Walk from 5-8 p.m. The Murphy Art Center will be a hub of activity, with children getting the opportunity to create painted Christmas cards and holiday pictures.
   For the parade Saturday afternoon, Hughes recommends gathering downtown for the best viewing opportunities. She’ll be outside The Daily Grind & Wine announcing which floats win the “Best of Parade,” “True Spirit of Christmas” and “Joys of Christmas” awards.
   Floats will start head downtown from the Valley Village Shopping Center about 1:40 p.m. Walkers will be added to the parade at Murphy Elementary School as the floats arrive about 2 p.m. Hughes coordinates with the help of volunteers, especially Corey and Elo-Ly Bailey, Cliff Breckinridge and Leslie Davis.
   The parade will include homecoming courts, longtime Mayor Bill Hughes, Mayor-elect Rick Ramsey, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and – for the first time in a long time – the marching bands from both Hiwassee Dam and Murphy high schools. Hughes said the parade has had as many as four bands in past years, but has only had Murphy High in recent years.
   “I’m so excited,” said Hughes, who was a majorette in the marching band when she was in high school.
   The parade, she added, always has more than 100 moving parts on floats and always draws a huge crowd.
   “This community really loves a parade,” she said.
   Anyone wishing to participate in the parade has until Friday to register. The form, including rules and information, is available on the town’s website, townofmurphync.com.
   Samantha Sinclair is the Scouting Around columnist for the Cherokee Scout. You can reach her by email, scoutingaround@cherokeescout.com; fax, 837-5832; or by leaving a message in the office at 837-5122.