Everybody loves a parade, especially a Christmas parade. Atlantic Union Bank is a proud sponsor of a number of parades across our markets during the holiday season, including in Richmond, Middleburg, Tappahannock and Great Bridge. It’s just one way we try to give back to our communities and celebrate the season.
If you live in Richmond, you are probably familiar with the Christmas Parade which has been a tradition that runs down Broad Street dating back to the 1950s (albeit under some different names, title sponsors, and a hiatus in 1970s). We have the longest affiliation with the Richmond Christmas parade – as sponsor of the Santa float – that dates back to when the parade was title-sponsored by Ukrop’s Supermarket. (Officially speaking, the parade as it is known now – The Dominion Energy Christmas Parade – has been in existence for 38 years).
We invite all of our customers to join us this year on December 4 at 10:00 a.m. The parade takes place downtown and there are plenty of great spots to be a spectator – more details can be found at RichmondParade.org.
A brief history
From the 1950s to mid-1970s, the parade was known as the Thalhimers' Toy Parade, sponsored by the once prominent local department store. It went on hiatus for quite a while before being re-launched by a group of dedicated local volunteers, the Richmond Jaycees, in 1985. In 1989, local supermarket Ukrop’s joined to become the title sponsor.
Richmonder Robert Kelly, who serves as Parade President was there during the re-launch and has been with the parade ever since. He also serves as principal parade historian and storyteller. “When Ukrops got involved, they were able to secure some of their big money vendors to sponsor the larger floats and helium balloons,” recalls Robert. “We were able to expand, not so much the number of floats or balloons, but the quality of the parade itself. It became more of a big time event. Not like The Macy’s Parade or other major city parades, but it grew from a small-town parade to a nice regional event. We were able to attract a pretty big audience. Also, all three Richmond television networks started to air it which helped its popularity grow.”
In 2010 when Ukrops was sold, Dominion Energy took over as title sponsor and the parade became the Dominion Energy Christmas Parade. Adds Robert, “The Ukrops family has been very kind to the parade over the years. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have kept going.”
The Santa float, not only features Santa, but a sleigh with resurrected reindeer from the old Home Beneficial Life building which stood around the Cutshaw and Broad intersection. Santa’s float has been sponsored by Atlantic Union Bank (who previously acquired First Market Bank) since Ukrops initially took the title sponsorship role. Richmonders may remember First Market Bank branches inside Ukrops supermarkets. It was the idea of Ukrops to give the bank more visibility and have us sponsor the parade’s main float. When Ukrops was sold in 2010, Atlantic Union Bank – then Union Bank and Trust – continued the tradition of sponsoring Santa’s float.
“It’s pretty cool. There’s a lot of history with those reindeer. They are really old,” said Craig Hott, who built floats for the parade for 20 years, including managing the upkeep and design of our Santa float. Known as The Float Guy to anyone who asks what his involvement is in the parade, Craig recently retired from the float building business: “Walking away from it is very bittersweet. It’s been my way of contributing to the community for a good part of my lifetime. I took great pride in doing it.”
Over the years the parade has had its share of memorable Grand Marshalls, including Kenny Rogers, Trisha Yearwood, and Petersburg native Blair Underwood – to name a few. In 1991, singer-songwriter Paul Simon served the role, conveniently using the occasion to film a music video with special guest Chevy Chase and Steve Martin (See video here). “He was looking for a parade that he could use as a backdrop for a music video. Their people called our people. It just worked out,” said Robert. “We were always trying to get someone of local interest or some of the entertainers that happened to be in town to serve as Grand Marshalls.”
Macy’s owns the exclusive rights to a lot of balloon characters. In the parade business, that means cities with parades, like Richmond, can’t fly balloons representing those characters. You won’t see SpongeBob or Spiderman in Richmond. What you will see are some of the secondary characters, or Macy’s-retired balloons, like Rocky the Squirrel, Rudolph or Gumby.
Over the years, Rudolph and Gumby have had their share of balloon and challenges, mainly the wind – which is generally not a helium balloon’s friend. Parade President Robert Kelly tells their stories: “Gumby went down one year on a traffic signal. That’s one I’ll never forget. Also, Rudolph went down in 2010. Someone took a video of him going down on the traffic light on Broad. It went viral. We put a band aid on his head for the next year. That was pretty funny.”
Middleburg, VA Christmas Parade
“Christmas in Middleburg” is more than just a parade. It starts with the famous Middleburg Hunt and Hounds Review which goes down Main Street – has since 1979 – and features a traditionally-attired fox huntsman and a parade of 30 or more focused hounds who aren’t likely to be distracted by anything. “You would think it would be a nightmare with all those hounds,” said David Hartley, Managing Director, Atlantic Union Bank Wealth Management. “The fox hounds and the master huntsman on horseback just trot down the road like no one’s business. Lots of parade-goers just go to see the Hunt and Hounds Review. It really is something.”
Atlantic Union Bank (formerly Midddleburg Bank), has been involved with the parade since it’s early days. As with Richmond, Atlantic Union Bank sponsors the Santa float. Now the float is a more traditional Santa and sleigh, but not too long ago the reindeer were fox to not only celebrate the Hunt and Rounds Review, but to represent a main element of what was the Middleburg Bank logo – a fox.
The Hunt and Hounds Review begins at 11:00 a.m. on December 4, with the parade to follow at 2:00 p.m.
Tappahannock and Great Bridge, VA
Atlantic Union Bank also has holiday floats in Christmas parades in Tappahannock and Great Bridge, continuing our tradition of celebrating with those communities this holiday season. These custom-made floats are a great opportunity for our Teammates to support local traditions and help spread the spirit of the season.
Wherever you are. We hope you have a great holiday season. If you have some time, go see a parade! Season’s Greetings from Atlantic Union Bank.