Native Charlotteans are hard to come by, but the Suddreth family definitely qualifies.Guy Suddreth, now deceased, ran a grocery store in north Charlotte for 50 years. And his three sons Frank, 79, David, 77, and Richard, 74 all graduated from Hawthorne High School, then Tech High School, and still live in Charlotte. The Suddreth brothers grew up watching the Carrousel Thanksgiving Day parade, presented by Belk, in uptown Charlotte. It was a way to launch the holiday shopping season, Guy Suddreths grandson and Davids son, also named David, 51, said. It brought everyone into uptown to look at the stores windows.As they got older, the Suddreth brothers volunteered at the parade by driving the tractors that pulled the parades floats. They started their own families and pursued careers but always helped the parade. Frank is retired from the N.C. Department of Agriculture; David was a bricklayer for 40 years and now works for Charlotte Motor Speedway and the Mecklenburg County Sheriffs Office; and Richard is retired after 40 years with the U.S. Postal Service. Through the years, though, they maintained the family tradition of being involved with the parade.Frank Suddreth was the first to make his role with the parade official, joining the board of directors in 1972.My boss at the time played Santa Claus in the parade, Frank says, and he asked me to join the board. Franks brothers then followed, and their children and spouses also committed to keeping the Charlotte Thanksgiving Day tradition alive.I got sucked in because its a family tradition, Annabelle Suddreth, married to David Jr., said. It was not part of the original marriage contract.David Jr. Suddreth has served as the boards treasurer for the last five years. It is a year-round endeavor, he said. The public only sees the one day, but we work on the parade all year long. The parade lasts approximately 2 1/2 hours and travels down a three-quarter mile stretch of North Tryon between 11th Street and Stonewall. There are 120 units divided into three categories (area bands, floats, and special units like the police and neighborhood groups) that are staggered for variety.Its all hands on deck on the day of the parade, says David Jr., but there is behind-the-scenes work that happens throughout the year. That work relies on hundreds of volunteers, but it also depends on funding.It costs about $125,000 to put the parade on, David Jr. says, noting that the floats there are typically 20-25 cost money, as does the television coverage. Included in the expenses are the Suddreths favorite part of the parade: the crowning of a parade scholar and the scholarships that are awarded. Over 60 girls typically participate in the parades scholarship program, all nominated by their high schools. They compete for scholarship money the top prize is a $4,000 scholarship and all of them ride in the parade on floats.I love seeing how smart these girls are, Frank says. Its the highlight of the parade for me.It is a labor of love for our family, Richard Suddreth says, but they knew that their dedication alone could not keep the parade going. When Belk, the parades largest sponsor, opted not to renew its commitment to the parade this year, the Suddreth family announced that there would be no parade.Thats when Charlotte Center City Partners and Novant Health stepped in to save the beloved Charlotte institution that is, says Annabelle Suddreth, as much a Thanksgiving Day tradition for Charlotte families as putting a turkey in the oven. They have taken over sponsorship and management of this years parade, now called Novant Health Thanksgiving Day Parade.The Suddreth family, who is still involved with the scholarship part of the parade and plans to volunteer as they always do at the event, cant wait to create new memories for Charlotte families.I rode behind Santa Clause last year, Suddreth recalls, and I videotaped the crowd as we passed. It didnt matter what gender, age or ethnicity people were. All I saw were 100,000 smiles.
Friday, Nov. 15, 2013
Charlotte familys devotion keeps holiday tradition alive
Katya Lezin is a freelance writer. Do you have a story idea for Katya? Email her at email@example.com.
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