Celebrating freedom is a local tradition

MILLBORO — Taking the scenic route home can take you through some interesting places in North Carolina. Taking the scenic route in 1999 led Tony Trogdon to start a Randolph County tradition that has lasted 22 years — an Independence Day parade.

Trogdon and his wife, Sondra, took a drive to Mount Airy in 1999 on the Fourth of July. They decided to take the long way home and found themselves in the middle of a parade in the town of Shoals in Surry County. The Trogdons saw classic cars, trucks, bicycles, floats, and emergency vehicles parading along a rural route. After the experience, Tony was inspired to replicate the parade in his home territory of Millboro, an unincorporated area of Randolph County east of Randleman and north of Franklinville.

Trogdon said his goal was to start the parade in 2000: “I contacted DOT and asked them about blocking the road in Millboro for a parade and was told I could not do that.”

Undeterred, Trogdon contacted then-Sheriff Litchard Hurley who found a way to block a short stretch of road to accommodate the first parade, which included about 35 participants. Now the parade spans three miles beginning at the Faith Temple Church then down Mack Linberry Road and Tom Brown Road ending at Bethany Methodist Church. This year’s parade included over 120 participants.

Tony Trogdon during the Millboro Independence Day Parade in 2005. (Sondra Trogdon)

Over the next two decades, the parade has grown into a community event. One of the highlights each year has been a hot-dog supper following the parade. That tradition was put on hold last year due to the COVID-19 restrictions imposed by local and state governments. The Trogdons say they hope to bring that part of the event back next year.

Tony and Sondra are lifelong Randolph County residents. He graduated from Randleman High School in 1966, and she graduated from Eastern Randolph in 1969. The couple has been married for 51 years and have two sons and a daughter who help put the parade on each year.

The COVID-19 restrictions put a damper on the parade last year, but according to Sondra, rain has never stopped the event: “It got down to just a few days before July 4th last year, and people were calling us wanting the parade to go on.”

The couple decided to continue the tradition with some safety modifications, which continued this year.

NC House Rep. Pat Hurley throws candy during the Millboro 4th of July Parade on John Brown Road in Millboro, NC on July 3rd, 2021. PJ WARD-BROWN/ FOR THE NORTH STATE JOURNAL

“It is special because it is so much an old-fashioned American parade, where children and adults are welcome,” said state Rep. Pat Hurley, who has participated in the parade for many years. “People along the route on the two-lane roads are out in front of their homes standing or sitting with American flags everywhere.”

Hurley made sure to appeal to the children by throwing candy from a convertible during the parade.

The Trogdons still lead the event but are happy the community members have embraced the event and are taking ownership of the parade. Sondra says both Bethany Church and Faith Temple open their fellowship halls to attendees, provide parking and help turn the hot-dog supper into a community covered-dish supper.

“This event was started for the people; it wasn’t for me,” said Tony. “I’ve always tried to help the children in my community.”

By Matt Mercer

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