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Happy Birthday! Drive by parades fill party voids

By Staff | May 15, 2020

T.J. McNutt and his family gathered outside their home in Charles Town as more than 50 vehicles drove by in a parade to help T.J. celebrate his seventh birthday. Toni Milbourne

CHARLES TOWN — Many parents are struggling to figure out how to make their children’s birthdays memorable, as the COVID-19 pandemic social distancing mandates affect their ability to hold gatherings.

One popular trend in the U.S. over the last couple of months has been for family and friends to put on drive-by parades as a substitution for a traditional party.

Such was the case on Saturday, as more than 50 vehicles gathered at Washington High School to form a parade to help T.J. McNutt celebrate his seventh birthday.

“It took us about two weeks to get everyone involved,” said his mom, Nikki McNutt.

The parade for T.J. not only included the vehicles of his family and friends, but also over several fire departments, because of his love of fire engines.

Citizens Fire Company led a birthday parade for T.J. McNutt's seventh birthday celebration on Saturday. Toni Milbourne

“I have family and friends in the local fire service and after reachin out, they were happy to help,” Nikki said. “They love to be active in the community.”

Nikki’s mother, Sandy McDonald, serves as vice president at Citizen’s Fire Company and before the pandemic began, T.J. loved to spend time at the fire station.

According to Nikki, T.J. was unaware members of the department were going to participate in the birthday drive by. While T.J. knew it was going to happen, he believed the firemen were unable to bring their equipment. His face lit up when Citizen’s Fire Company President Ron Fletcher led the parade with one of the trucks, lights flashing.

Dispersed throughout the parade were pieces of apparatus from Blue Ridge Volunteer Fire Department, Independent Fire Company and Friendship Fire Department.

“T.J. was over the moon seeing all of the fire trucks,” Nikki said.

“I loved seeing my family in the parade,” T.J. agreed, as many participating, stopping to hand gifts, cards and balloons out car windows to the birthday boy.

According to Nikki, T.J. usually celebrates his birthday by visiting Busch Gardens with his family. She hopes that, for his next birthday, they will be able to reprise that tradition.

“We have done a couple of birthday parades for other people. The one we had was larger than others we have attended,” Nikki said, sharing her appreciation for the friends and family who joined in Saturday’s parade.