Try to picture a Tuesday night during Masters Tournament week in downtown Augusta, Georgia, just hours before the Champions Dinner, with the sidewalks of Broad Street packed with patrons. In between marching bands and decorated floats, Mercedes convertibles roll by with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in their green jackets, sitting together high on the seat backs waving to fans, while Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley smiles and waves from the open car up ahead.
Hard to imagine, right? Well, 64 years ago that wasn’t just a weird fever dream. That was reality. From 1957 to the mid-1960s, Masters week literally came with pageants and pomp and parades in an effort to promote a tournament that no longer needs promotion. In the 1957 inaugural Masters Parade, Augusta National founder Bobby Jones rode in the lead Cadillac convertible with Augusta mayor Hugh Hamilton. Not far behind, Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson – as well as other prominent Masters competitors dispersed throughout – saluted the 25,000 fans lining the streets, with actual beauty pageant queens wearing formal gowns on floats behind them.
Somewhere in the parade queue, The Augusta Chronicle wrote, was a float from the Fort Gordon Library that depicted Satan trying to blast out of a sand trap.
“It really was a remarkable, heavily attended parade,” said Doug Herman, an 80-year native Augustan and historian who was a teenager when the Masters Parade and Pageant era launched. “Absolutely, there were throngs on Broad Street on both sides you could hardly see. There were a number of notable golfers in the parade. People were sitting on top of the ledges of the buildings, their legs dangling off.”
“It was just a real exciting thing for our little country town,” Lillian Cullum, who died in 2015, told The Augusta Chronicle of the event her late husband, Jim – owner of Cullum’s Clothing Store – helped establish as another tradition unlike any other.
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