Greenville Christmas Parade ~ Hot Chocolate Sales

The City of Greenville has a long-standing tradition of a colorful Christmas parade. Crowds gather along Main Street to enjoy this experience as a lead into the Holiday Season.

Each year Rotary Clubs everywhere raise money for charitable causes and charitable organizations. However, there are many costs incurred by these Rotary Clubs in their charitable activities that cannot be offset simply by the donation of time and effort by club members. So the need to raise funds is necessary to help offset these costs.

In 2012 the North Main Rotary Club began a simple fundraising idea with the goal of raising money to help offset the club’s administrative expenses. Even after North Main Rotary merged with Eastside Rotary to become the Rotary Club of Greenville City Center we have not failed to use the City of Greenville Christmas Parade as the venue for this necessary activity. To members of the club at the time the idea was obvious since club members complained to each other that what people wanted while waiting for the parade to start was something inexpensive and holiday-like to munch on. And from those discussions was born this unique fundraising idea.

Selling hot chocolate and donuts may not seem that unique, but prior to 2012, the City of Greenville had not granted any group permission to sell these types of products on Main Street prior to or during the parade. So a handful of club members approached the City with a request to allow the Club to sell hot chocolate and donuts prior to the parade with proceeds being used to further the club’s charitable work. Further, the idea was not to set up a table and wait for parade-goers to get in line, but to use a number of garden wagons each set up with boxes of KrispyKreme donuts and gallons of hot chocolate kept in 10-gallon insulated Cambros (large thermos’ with dispensing spout at the bottom) and to traverse up and down Main Street selling to those who were staking out their place along the curbs to watch the parade. City parade organizers agreed to the Club’s request and thus has become an expected offering for annual parade-viewers.

This activity has changed some for us since those early years by adding two fixed locations, one at the Peace Center and one at One Main Plaza. These locations have folding tables covered by a visible open tent to serve the large number of people taking in the sights of what has always been a very large holiday event for the City.

During the years since that first time, a lot of work has gone into maximizing customer satisfaction. Getting the formula just right for making the hot chocolate taste just right took a lot of patience and a couple of years of trial and error. Determining exactly how much hot chocolate to make and how many donuts to buy is an algorithm worthy of a Nobel Prize. Anticipating the weather, the size of the crowd, and will building construction projects influence where people will set up to watch the parade are some of the considerations made each year so as to anticipate demand. The growth in the area’s population has added to the crowds each year. And with many new hotel developments downtown lots of hotel guests are now on hand to watch the parade. 

Things have not always been smooth sailing for this event. The City’s policy has been that the “show will go on” regardless if it raining or unseasonably hot. We have had both. In 2018 it rained a lot and very few people came out even though the parade was not canceled it was still a bust for us. It is not unusual for it to be warm in early December but chilly and dry weather is the best. In 2020 the City did cancel the parade for possibly the first time ever due to Covid concerns. But none of these things will deter us from continuing. However, there is still one thing we would really really like in order to make this fundraiser the best thing ever …. “let it snow, let it snow, let it snow ”.

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