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Reunion Parade – Jim Valvano – Ina’s Meatballs

On Monday I wrote about the Old Soldiers Reunion celebration in Newton and Cruisin Night.  Yesterday was the reunion parade and the memorial service in Newton.  I was working in Newton once during Old Soldiers Reunion week and I remember how the excitement grew each day with the parade on Thursday as the highlight of the week.  The old courthouse that is the center of the town has food and merchandise vendors lining the street throughout the day and the aromas are so wonderful.  One of my favorite memories is riding through downtown on the morning of the parade and seeing lawn chairs on the side of the road.  There is no one in or around the chairs and you just put your chairs in a prime spot earlier in the day and that is your reservation for a good view of the parade in the afternoon.  Everyone respects your reservation and will not mess with your stuff.  Sort of sounds like Mayberry doesn’t it?

Here are some pictures of the parade yesterday from our local newspaper:

One of many floats in the parade

One of many floats in the parade

Couples sitting in their reserved chairs waiting for start of the parade

Couples sitting in their reserved chairs waiting for start of the parade

Another Parade Route Picture

Another Parade Route Picture

Boxer patiently waiting for his funnel cake -  Smart Dog!

Boxer patiently waiting for his funnel cake – Smart Dog!

I was always working on the day of the parade and I have only attended it one time.  Don’t compare it to Macy’s or the Rose Bowl Parade as it is just an old fashioned down home parade with lots of locals participating.  There are so many children that have a part in the parade and that has always been heartwarming for me.  I can remember how excited neighborhood children would be about their participation in “THE PARADE”

My fondest memory of the parade is the year that Jim Valvano, former coach of the NC State Basketball team was the speaker for the memorial service and I think that was in 1984.  The team had won the national championship in 1983 and he was a household name in this state and very popular all over the US.  His team was the Cardiac Pack as they were never considered to be a contender for the title and won it all.  Yes, many of us almost had heart attacks watching them squeak by with one or two point wins to win it all.  At the time Jimmy V came to Newton he was being accused of trying to be a big celebrity and I have to admit that some of his projects did bother me a little.  However, I always believed he had a good heart and cared about people.

My daughter was going to the YMCA that summer as I worked full time.  She told me they were riding in the parade and I asked all kinds of questions.  Then I realized they were loading all the kids in the YMCA bus and they were riding through downtown Newton in the bus.  I thought that was great because they didn’t have to be the most talented are the prettiest to be in the parade.  She was ten at the time and has never been that interested in sports.  I told her Jimmy V was coming and to look for him and how exciting it would be for me,  if she could just see him.

I asked her after the parade if she saw Jimmy V and she said, Oh Yes!!! He came on the bus and talked to us.  No it wasn’t prearranged and their was no one there to take his picture.  After the parade, the kids were sitting in the bus waiting to go back to the Y and Jimmy V came around the corner to leave.  He spied the bus and stopped and got on the bus with the kids and took turns letting each one of the little kids sit on his lap.  He had high 5’s or handshakes for the older kids.  He talked to them about basketball which really didn’t interest her but I am sure as motivational as he was, there was some life lessons included.

Jimmy V was forced to resign at NC State and sometimes I think it was envy and jealousy that played a part in that.  When he was under tremendous pressure at NC State, I wrote him a letter and thanked him for all he was and all he had done for so many people.  He responded and I have that response in my lock box because it means that much to me.  He was such an inspiring person and I think my fondest memory of him is that miserably hot August day, he stopped to talk to a bunch of kids on a YMCA bus in the small town of Newton, NC.

Because Jimmy V was a native New Yorker and because he was Italian, I am sharing Ina Garten’s Turkey Meatball recipe with you.  I have made this recipe many times and it is so delicious.  If Jimmy V was coming for dinner, I would have made this for him and I think he would have been pleased with the choice.

Jimmy V is also known for his emotional speech at the ESPY awards 8 weeks before his death.  As I wrote this post, I did shed a couple of tears because it brought back so many bittersweet memories.  In that speech, Jimmy V said, “Don’t ever give up.”  I miss you Jimmy V!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

2 responses »

  1. Aw, I loved Jimmy V. Thanks for sharing about the old soldiers celebration. I remember when I was little little seeing the old soldiers in the local parades in Durham. A nice memory. And thanks for the meatball recipe. I love meatballs!


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