Having a Large Time in a Small Town: a Boykin Christmas Parade Tradition
Aside from being the birthplace of the Boykin Spaniel, the unincorporated town of Boykin, South Carolina, hosts one of the finest Christmas traditions in the state.
In the annals of history, the Boykin Christmas Parade started rather innocently in 1991 with decorated four-wheelers, some antique cars and horse-mounted townsfolk handing out candy. In the years since, the floats have become more elaborate and more numerous, nearly transforming the spectacle into a Christmas-themed Mardi Gras, with Santa arriving in the middle of the route via parachute.
“I remember one year when we did a Little Bo Peep float. There were actual lambs on the float and the little kids were dressed up as lambs. We wound up in The State newspaper and won ‘Best Float’ that year,” recalls Kathy McCaskill of Old McCaskill Farm.
Held in late December, the parade stretches down the two-lane rural road, beginning near Swift Creek Baptist Church and ending at the mill pond village. Parade-goers line the route, establishing tailgate-style picnics as they wait in anticipation of the parade. You’ll find many delectable treats along the way, such as ham biscuits and wild game charcuterie—or, perhaps, Louise Meyers’ famous eggnog.
“I’ve been attending since the very first parade with my husband and two sons,” says McCaskill. Ms. Meyers made a smaller batch at first, but as its notoriety grew, it became evident she would need to start making greater quantities.
“It’s just an old Charleston Receipts recipe I’ve tweaked,” she modestly says.
At the end of the parade route near the town center, you’ll find Mark Price selling shrimp and grits, barbecue sandwiches and T-shirts commemorating the parade. Price has been involved with the town of Boykin for the past 13 years with his restaurant, Mill Pond Steakhouse.
“It’d be too difficult to have the restaurant open during the event, but we have a few things. We always sell out on parade day.”
His restaurant offers a fine-dining experience with a well-stocked bar, exquisite cuts of dry- and wet-aged beef and enhanced versions of steakhouse sides sold à la carte.
“You can come out here and get your classics, but they’re done in a way most people don’t do them anymore,” Mark says.
With a spectacular view of the Boykin Mill Pond, impeccable staff and top ingredients, Mill Pond Steakhouse stands tall among the crowd of fine-dining establishments in South Carolina.
With a history that stretches back to the late 18th century, the town of Boykin was founded when a small congregation of Baptists moved nine miles south of Camden, South Carolina, and established Swift Creek Baptist Church. They constructed a Greek Revival–style house of worship in 1827. Additionally, Swift Creek was dammed to create the mill pond at Boykin Mill around that time. This historic site bore witness to one of the last battles of the Civil War during the Battle of Boykin Mill on April 19, 1865, but because word traveled slowly, the battle unfortunately took place 10 days after the official end of hostilities.
Swift Creek Baptist Church and Boykin Mill currently stand original to the town, while the other historic structures were imported from other parts of the state. The refurbished Boykin Mill also grinds corn using hydropower as it did nearly 200 years ago. This reconstituted settlement would not exist without the help of the late Alice Boykin and the 100 or so people who call the area their home.
If you visit historic Boykin on any given day, you’d never know such a wild holiday ruckus takes place each year in this quiet little village. Much like the little brown dog bearing its name, the town of Boykin is friendly, eager to please, full of character, but a little prone to mischief from time to time.
The Boykin Christmas parade is being held on December 17th from 2-5 pm. To learn more, visit www.theboykinchristmasparade.com