Red Top ready for parade

The Red Top parade crosses U.S. Highway 17 on Labor Day 2010.

RED TOP -- Organizers of this rural hamlet's annual Labor Day parade are expecting a banner turnout Monday, one year after complaints about traffic tie-ups nearly spelled the end for the popular event.

Motorists stewed and griped last year after traffic backed up to Ravenel waiting for the parade to cross U.S. Highway 17 from one side of

Red Top to the other. That prompted state transportation officials to consider pulling the plug on future highway crossings by the parade.

Folks in this predominantly black community saw the move as a threat to their way of life and rallied around the parade that began back in 1979 to celebrate the unofficial end to summer.

In the end, a deal was worked out that will preserve the parade's traditional route, with some minor modifications.

Angela Brown, president of the Red Top Community Improvement Association, said this year's parade will start an hour earlier, at 10 a.m., to avoid a peak traffic time. The group is also spreading the word about the event so motorists won't be caught by surprise.

The Charleston County Sheriff's Office plans to have deputies on hand to temporarily halt the parade at points to let cars pass through, alleviating congestion, Maj. Jim Brady said.

Brown and Brady said the new plan is a workable solution that should allow the parade to proceed with few problems.

"It's fine," Brown said. "It's not hindering the parade in any way."

Brown said last year's controversy seemed to renew interest in the parade and organizers expect a solid crowd of spectators will turn out.

Some 50 people, a few floats and other attractions will make up the parade, which could take about an hour to make its way from the starting point on Bear Swamp Road to a small community center on Old Charleston Highway. Once there, representatives from community churches will serve up an old-fashioned Southern meal to all concerned.

State Rep. Robert Brown, a Hollywood Democrat who supported the community in its quest to keep the parade, is among those planning to attend Monday. "To me, this is extremely important," he said. "This is part of keeping our culture alive in this community and keeping the tight-knit community together."

Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or on Twitter at @glennsmith5.