Theories as to the origin of the Shanghai Parade abound. In 1951, a reporter for The Raleigh Register posed two possibilities. The first had to do with an area resident who landed in China and was inspired by the Chinese New Year’s celebrations. The second possibility suggested the word Shanghai stems from the Scot term “Shangie” that describes a show-off, dressed in sporty clothes who attracts attention. Shangie can also refer to a ribbon or ornament attached to a horse’s tail.
Except for war years and pandemics, the parade seems to have been held continually since shortly after the Civil War. The route that follows Washington Street may have been shortened over the years. In 1948, Henry Vaughn of Hillsboro said when he was 12 years old, about 1868, he distinctly remembered the parade passing through Fairlea. Charlie Bell said the parade was mostly on horseback, and the Shangals would go to Ronceverte where there was an awaiting crowd and refreshments.
The largest crowd for the parade may have been in 1952 when a reported 10,000 people came. The parade that year was kicked off by Governor Okey Patterson. After the formal send off, it was – as it is now – an informal, anything goes affair.
Shown is Llamas in Pajamas, one of the most popular entries in the 2011 Shanghai Parade. The 2024 parade begins at noon at the corner of Washington and Lee streets.
Photo: Courtesy of the West Virginia Daily News.
Sources: Greenbrier Independent, The Raleigh Register.