Governor walks in Canton parade

By Vicki Hyatt | Sep 02, 2013
Photo by: Vicki Hyatt N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory passes out Canton during the Labor Day Parade. The Canton mill is in the background.

N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory became the first governor in recent memory to take part in Canton's Labor Day festivities Monday.

Several residents who haven't missed a parade in decades recalled plenty of local and regional politicians, including the area congressmen, who can be counted on to participate in the annual Labor Day Parade.

But not since Gov. Dan Moore, a Canton resident who served as governor from 1965 to 1969, has there been a parade that included the top state elected official, long-timers said.

The governor's visit was kept under wraps until late Sunday. While some insiders knew of the possibility of a visit as early as Friday, there was no mention on Republican websites or even any official word of the visit from the Governor's office staff. Not even Canton officials were aware of the dignitary visit.

Canton Mayor Mike Ray knew nothing of the visit late Saturday, and while Canton Police Chief Bryan Whitner had heard of the possibility, none of the logistics were shared with his office.

McCrory walked near the beginning of the parade, behind the Pisgah JROTC, which presented the colors and the mayor. He was joined by U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, who was passing out candy along with his wife, Debbie, and N.C. Sen. Jim Davis, whose bill on drug testing for welfare recipients was one of two bills the governor vetoed.

"It seems to be a constitutional issue with some," Davis said, noting he had worked with two Senate Democrats, as well as several attorneys on the legislative staff to address legal issues.

He said the governor has implemented portions of the bill through executive order, but Davis wants to see the full law implemented. He expressed confidence the governor's veto on both his bill and another on immigration would be overturned.

While the congressmen, governor and many others were passing out candy to children along the route, Davis, who is an dentist, was not.

McCrory was met with several questions from bystanders during his trek, including in front of Smoky Mountain Local 509.

"How come you're cutting them teachers out," shouted Caroll Israel, a retired mill employee. "Why did you cut those people out of insurance?"

"Watch your language now," McCrory said.

Rebecca McDowell, who also watched the parade in front of the union hall, was puzzled about he language remark as not a foul word was uttered.

Later Israel said he didn't do too well in English during his school days, but thought people in America still had free speech.

McDowell agreed.

"That's the way people talk about here," she said. "I wished I could have asked him, 'Why do you let big business and people with money speak for you? You may have your cronies in Raleigh, but the results affect us, the little people.'"

Monday's parade lasted about an hour and 10 minutes, but was viewed by one of the sparsest crowds in years.

Bruce Chapman, who retired after spending 45 years working at the paper mill in town has watched every parade for the past 60 years and said he can't remember ever seeing so few people attending. Doug Smathers, a retired barber in town, agreed.

"This is the smallest crowd I've ever seen," he said.

Those who did spend Labor Day in Canton found no shortage of things to do and see. The parade featured everything from Labor Day royalty ranging from age 1 to college-bound; plenty of local elected leaders and Canton aldermen hopefuls. There were cheerleaders and tractors; dancers and scout troops. The parade ended with fire engines and horses, a pairing that proved interesting at times when a skittish horse reacted to the sirens.

Each Labor Day, Canton sponsors a four-day event filled with carnival rides, plenty of music, food vendors and a parade. It is the longest-running Labor Day event in the Southeast. This marks the event's 107th year.