Marie Cunningham birthday pic

Marie Cunningham received a royal treatment for her 86th birthday as a parade of well-wishers drove by honking their horns and waving.

Photo by Michaele Duke

Ms. Marie Cunningham of Kingstree loves a birthday party but she never expected to have one sitting on the front porch as a caravan of cars drove by. The parade wasn’t just a few neighbors waving and calling out happy birthday. The June 19, royal treatment lineup included an escort by the Williamsburg County Sheriff’s Office, EMS and Williamsburg County and Kingstree Fire Departments with flashing lights and blaring sirens. 

Drive-by birthdays are becoming the norm amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Caravans loaded with well-wishers are replacing the traditional cake and ice cream party. Grandson Darryl Cunningham and Hope Barr came up with the idea only the day before. “I went to talk to the Sheriff (Stephen Gardner) and (County Supervisor) Tiffany Wright to see if they could make it happen,” said Darryl.

The noise was so loud that the birthday girl didn’t know what was going on at first. “That scared me so bad,” said the 86-year-old. “I thought it was a wreck.” But her attitude quickly changed when her older daughter Harriet Harris explained what was about to happen. “At first, I said, mama, mama, what’s going on? I don’t know what happened,” said Harris. “And then they came up and I said happy birthday! That’s when she jumped up and started waving.” 

When it was over, a table set beside the road was loaded with presents. She even received a framed “Decades of Citizenship Award” from the Supervisor and County Council. Needless to say, it was a birthday Ms. Cunningham will never forget. “This was so nice. So nice,” she said. “I’ve had surprise birthdays but nothing like this.”