Ordinarily, Danny Fries’ vantage point of the Rincon Lions Club Christmas Parade is that of the long procession of units as he sits in the fire truck, accompanying Santa Claus.
Saturday morning, Fries and his wife Elizabeth will be leading the parade through Rincon from their perch in a convertible Mercedes as the grand marshals.
Fries is usually the one who recommends the grand marshal to the parade committee. But this year, he struggled with coming up with a suggestion. He went out of town and when he came back, the committee told him they had an idea for the grand marshal.
“They said, ‘we’ve got somebody,’” Fries said. “I was a little bit stunned.”
The crowd for the Lions Club Christmas Parade can reach 6,000 people, Fries said the police department has estimated. It’s a crowd they are glad to see line the streets on a Saturday morning.
“It’s just something the people really enjoy and appreciate,” Elizabeth Fries said.
Added Danny Fries: “People in Effingham like a parade.”
Leading off the parade will be the 3rd Infantry Division band and color guard. The band also will play a selection of tunes after the parade in front of the First Baptist Church of Rincon.
“With the troops in the parade, it will be special,” Elizabeth Fries said.
Lunch will be provided to the soldiers by the men and women of the church after the original intended caterer was unavailable.
“They have come to my rescue, and I am very thankful,” Danny Fries said.
Danny and Elizabeth Fries have two sons, Danny Jr. and Donny, and two grandchildren, Danny III and Amber Elizabeth. They are active in their church, and Danny Fries has almost 37 years of perfect attendance in the Lions Club.
He served as president and was a charter member of the Wilmington Island Lions Club. He’s been president of the Rincon Lions Club and the Rincon Noon Lions Club. As extension chairman of Lions District 18B, he started seven new clubs.
The Lions Club supports local projects, including providing eyeglasses to children and the elderly and providing hearing aids to the elderly. The Lions Club also helps put together leader dogs with those who are blind. It also has a camp for the blind near Waycross, and the Georgia Lions operate an eye bank in Atlanta.
It also supports the Effingham YMCA and Effingham County Victim Witness Assistance Program.
“We serve,” said Danny Fries, echoing the organization’s motto. “Our existence is to help.”
He also noted that the Lions Clubs worldwide have provided 140 million inoculations against river blindness and funded millions of cataract operations across the globe.
There are more than 1.35 million members of Lions Clubs, making it the world’s largest service organization.
“I’ve enjoyed being in the Lions Club,” Danny Fries said. “My main reason is to help the blind, because I’ve had bad eyesight.”
Putting together the parade is a time-consuming process, but Fries gets a great deal of satisfaction out of watching it come together and seeing the crowds’ reaction.
“It’s a lot of work,” he said. “There’s a lot of contacts you have to make. I enjoy it.”
He still has his duties Saturday morning of helping get the units in the right places. But he’s looking forward to his seat and view when it starts rolling.
“We’re going to enjoy being grand marshal,” Fries said.