, 2014

Meredith Robbins will be at the helm
of the Kilmarnock Christmas Parade

by Renss Greene

The Kilmarnock Lighted Christmas Parade returns for its 35th year Friday, December 13.

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Lifetime waterman Meredith Robbins will serve as grand marshal of “Christmas by the Bay” parade.

“We wanted a special theme to reflect this major milestone,” said Lancaster by the Bay Chamber of Commerce executive director Cindi Huey.

“This year’s theme of ‘Christmas by the Bay’ reflects our heritage, our water-based economy, our wonderful recreation and our river lifestyle-both past and present,” she said.

In parade grand marshal and Lancaster County native Meredith Robbins, Kilmarnock found an embodiment of that heritage.

Robbins, 84, has been on the water his entire life, almost all of it here.

“I”ve been a waterman most of my life,” Robbins recounted. “Had a short hitch in the service during the Korean War, but the rest of the time I was either towboating or fishing.

“My father had a grocery store here for about 50 years,” Robbins recalled. “It was during the depression, and things were pretty hard, and the chain stores were taking over, so it was five of us boys and we all took to the water. Three of them were on the steamboats. I was a little young for the steamboats, but I did work on a little towboat and I worked on the bridge tunnel down in the Norfolk area. But most of it was fishing,”

Robbins was drafted in the Korean War. He was trained in Fort Eustis, and even then, he worked on the water.

“I was in transportation,” Robbins said. “I had an MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) in boating, so they put me in a boating outfit.”

After serving in Korea, Robbins returned to captain the tugboat Massaponax.

“I worked for a local outfit most of my years, Standard Products out of Reedville,” Robbins said. “Covered most of the East Coast.”

The Massaponax hauled gravel from Weems to Fredericksburg.

“We carried a crew of five, and all the boys with me were local boys,” Robbins said.

He also worked for both Standard Products and Zapata in the menhaden industry. Robbins captained vessels in the Northern Neck and Louisiana.

These days, he stays closer to home.

“I have a little boatyard down Antipoison (Creek) and I’m pretty active with that,” said Robbins. “I would like to think I was going to sell it, but anyway, I have it listed with a local realtor, but real estate’s gotten slow.”

Most days he is around Robbins’ Boatyard and Bay Seafood in White Stone. When Kilmarnock decided on the theme for this year’s parade, Kilmarnock Museum president Carroll Lee Ashburn turned to Robbins as an old friend.

“I have an antique truck, I knew these boys when I was coming along,” said Robbins of Ashburne and his brother, Jack. “Their father was a mechanic with White Stone Motor Company, and he repaired some of my vehicles, so I’ve been pretty close with those boys.”

When he got the call, Robbins said he’d give it a try.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Robbins said. “I hope we have decent weather.”

“Mr. Robbins embodies our connection to the waterways and we’re delighted that he agreed to be our grand marshal,” said Huey.

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