Start of the Season: Q&A with Middleburg Christmas Parade Director Jim Herbert
No matter where you live, the season doesn’t feel complete without tuning in to see that annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade every year on television...or, if you want to be part of the festivities, watching it go by in person. While the spectacle of those high-budget floats, top-tier music and celebrity appearances must be thrilling to experience live (and this writer is especially jealous of those who got to see Tim Burton’s “Bee” balloon make its debut), the body-crushing crowds and merciless winds somehow put the whole experience into the “not worth it” category. Okay, maybe it’ll go onto the “just once” bucket list.
But even with all the chaos, you’ve gotta love a parade. Luckily enough for Washingtonians, Middleburg, Va. keeps one of the holiday’s treasured traditions more relaxing with the Middleburg Christmas Parade. For 33 years, a group of grassroots organizers and selfless volunteers have been keeping this small-town tradition alive and it’s become something of a draw for tourists around Delmarva. With its Christmas cheer and small town atmosphere, the parade is the perfect backdrop for those one-of-a-kind holiday memories.
The Georgetowner spoke with the parade’s head organizer this year, Jim Herbert, about the parade’s unique personality and how it speaks to the overall feeling of this irresistible historic town.
Georgetowner: What makes the Middleburg Christmas Parade so unique?
Jim Herbert: Honestly, we have everything but the kitchen sink. And even there, we have something close in that a dog grooming business has someone dress up as a Dalmatian and sit in a bathtub, trying to wash his spots off. Because they make dogs spotless. Get it?
GT: Good one.
JH: Yeah, you gotta have a sense of humor in this parade.
GT: So it’s all local people putting together their own floats?
JH: People and businesses, yes. What makes this parade special, essentially, is that every float or part of the walk represents something that the people of this town really care about.
GT: So what is Middleburg, in a sense? Why should people want to find out what makes this town tick?
JH: Well some might see it as just a part of horse country. It’s an 18th century village and yes, we’ve got a lot of big horse farms. But what we’ve really got here are clauses of care and concern where people reach out and help each other. For example, we have a lot of animal rescue organizations that come out to be in the parade. We’ve got the Methodist Church hosting a breakfast to help an organization called Seven Loaves, which helps out need families. They’re the busiest they’ve ever been in this tough economy.
GT: But that horse country atmosphere is a big draw for your town. So will that be a part of the parade too?
JH: It’s actually one of the most visually stunning parts of the event. The Middleburg Hunt Review, which we’re pretty famous for, has its own event right around this time and we combine it with the parade. They have their biggest meeting of the year, usually about 90 to 100 riders turn out with their hounds on the west end of town. From there, they send a pack of hounds down Main Street and ride through at about 11a.m., when throngs of people are waiting to see them. It’s breathtaking and so significant, a real piece of history. For me, it feels like when the troops go by in front of the grand stand. It’s really beautiful to see.
GT: What else does the parade have going on?
JH: Oh, so much: polo teams, high school bands, acrobats. I’d like to say I had entries this year from A to Z, but it’s really only A to W. I want to be honest.
GT: It sounds a little like New Orleans.
JH: It is like New Orleans! Only we’re a little more family-friendly.