THE CHARMING ANNUAL procession of elementary students dressed as colonists and Native Americans that marks Georgia's founding may never have seen a more perfect day for a parade than Thursday.
"Usually it's incredibly cold on this day, or rainy," said Todd Groce, president of the Georgia Historical Society, which sponsors the event. "But today you've got no excuse" not to march in the parade, Groce told a crowd of dignitaries in Hodgson Hall off Forsyth Park before the launch of the parade on a sunny, 75 degree morning downtown.
A staple of each year's Georgia Day parade is "General James Oglethorpe," aka Scott Hodges, who landed on the Savannah River bluff on Feb. 12, 1733 to found Savannah and the thirteenth colony.
Groce gave a shoutout to the General during the pre-parade gathering in Hodgson Hall.
"Today all of us standing here today, all the people of the city and the state, we are the heirs of that dream of General Oglethorpe, to create a new society," Groce said.
But the honoree of this year's Georgia Day celebration is Johnny Mercer, native son and Academy Award-winning lyricist of the 1930s-50s.
Mercer is portrayed throughout the festivities by local actor Benjamin Wolfe.
Though the day itself was beautiful, stormy economic clouds loomed over the event: Gov. Sonny Perdue is pushing to eliminate millions of dollars in state funding for the Georgia Historical Society.
Groce addressed the situation Thursday, complimenting the activity of the society's main fundraising committee.
"This committee raised a remarkable 366,000 dollars. We need that money for two reasons: First of all, this is our fundraiser for the year. So this event has got to succeed," Groce said.
"The other reason this has got to succeed is because, if you ve been reading the paper or getting our e-mails, you know the GHS has taken some pretty drastic cuts in our state funding. That money amounts to about 15 percent of our operating budget," he said."
"If somebody says, well, thats only 15 percent, think about in your own business, if you lost 15 percent of your revenue. Youd understand this is a pretty big hit for us."
During the gathering, local schoolchildren introduced themselves from the ornate stairway at Hodgson Hall, dressed as a wide range of characters from Savannah history, from Juliette Gordon Low to Flannery O'Connor.