May Parade comes back to Old Towne Orange after decades on hiatus

by in News

After a 28-year hiatus, the May Parade is coming back to Old Towne Orange on Saturday, May 4, with thousands expected to be in attendance.

Orange Chamber of Commerce officials have long been planning to revive the parade – which was discontinued in 1992 because of a lack of funding – to showcase the city’s nonprofits, schools and other institutions, board chair Al Ricci said.

The city is not funding the parade; the chamber has raised the more than $45,000 needed to organize the event.

More than 80 entrants are expected, including at least eight professionally built floats. More than a dozen Miss Orange pageant winners, as well as marching bands from local high schools, will also be there, Ricci said. The parade’s theme this year is “A Nostalgic Look into Our City’s Future,” highlighting the senior and children residents in the city.

The parade will start at Shaffer Street and Chapman Avenue and head west toward the area’s historic plaza in the traffic circle. At the plaza, the marchers will head south on Glassell Street, and then go east on Almond Avenue, ending at Almond Avenue and Center Street.

From midnight to 2 p.m. on May 4, Chapman Avenue will close from Cambridge Street to Lemon Street and Glassell Street will close from Palmyra Avenue to Maple Avenue.

The parade started in 1933, celebrating the community during the Great Depression, local historian Douglas Westfall said. “It was a celebration of ‘Let’s get out of The Depression, let’s be happy, we have a great community.’”

Every year, tens of thousands came to Old Towne for the parade and its accompanying festival at Hart Park. The festival hosted carnival rides and eccentric events such as “turkey bowling,” where a frozen turkey was hurled like a bowling ball at plastic soda bottles, according to the Orange County Register archives.

The city even chose its official song, “Sweet, Sweet Orange,” at the 1988 festival that celebrated Orange’s centennial.

While the festival isn’t planned for a comeback, Mayor Mark Murphy said he is excited about seeing floats travel down Chapman Avenue again.

“The time has come,” he said. “I haven’t talked to much of anyone who didn’t smile and nod their head when they heard the thought of it.”

If you go

When: 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, May 4

Where: Historic Old Towne Orange

Cost: Free