CAT SQUARE PARADE - VALE, NORTH CAROLINA
Whenever people had asked me if I’d ever been to the Cat Square parade it’d always be followed by a chuckle and knowing look in their eye. They’d tell me about that one time they went and there were elaborate homemade floats on old cars, parade-goers tossing out cans of beer and cigarettes, and lines of horses as far as the eye could see, five for each person there. For the past several years and since I graduated from college, I’ve been wanting to attend this much talked about and surely rowdy time.
The Cat Square Christmas parade has taken in place in Vale, North Carolina for the past few decades. Each December, this little census-designated community of Cat Square sees an influx of a couple thousand people turn out to line up along the side of Zur Leonard and Cat Square Road to watch the parade trot by. Each year I’ve been told the number of spectators and participants grow larger. A few high school bands join in, almost every female in Lincoln County it seems is a beauty queen of some sort and is escorted in a convertible. North Carolina is not short at all of celebrations of its culture, but the Cat Square parade seems a little bit more special to me. I know because almost everyone I know in my hometown has been at least one time and they always have a story about it along with a slight shake of the head, smile, and quick look at the ground.
The parade is a big part of this area around Christmas and a tradition that’s been going strong for years with few people outside of the area taking notice. It’s uniquely ours. It’s the people of the community that keep all this afloat. The parade’s participants and its visitors are the subject of these pictures. A street preacher with a lazy eye handing out tracts, a man selling new and used knives, teenagers watching from their vehicles and younger volunteers in costume or in floats. Just a few people out of the thousands that caught my eye that day and sometimes let me talk to them a little. I’m anxious for next December to come around or the next time I’ll be able to tell my own story about the parade to someone who has never been.
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Aaron Canipe is a State Guide to North Carolina. He was born and raised in Hickory, North Carolina and received his BFA in photography from the Corcoran College of Art + Design in Washington, D.C. Aaron also helps operate Empty Stretch, a DIY-publisher and blog. He’s exhibited work throughout the South and has been published in the Washington Post and the Oxford American’s “Eye on the South” blog. Follow him on Tumblr at mysteriesmanners and see more work on his website, aaroncanipe.com.