It’s said that everybody loves a parade. I know I sure do.
One of the best things about fall in the Northland is the abundance of parades. These colorful, boisterous processionals are a part of many of our community festivals and high school homecoming celebrations this time of year.
In the next couple of days, Kearney, Liberty and Smithville will all have parades marching through their downtowns. For Kearney, it will be the second parade in as many weeks. Last weekend saw the Jesse James Festival parade, and this Friday, Sept. 27, the Kearney High School homecoming parade is sure to bring a wave of Bulldog purple through the city center. Also on Friday, Smithville High School’s homecoming parade will make its way through that town celebrating Warrior pride. The following morning, a collection of marching bands, dance troupes, political candidates, and local businesses and organizations will be on parade during the Liberty Fall Festival. In October, there will also be a parade at Gladfest in Gladstone.
Parades are in season throughout the year. Come wintertime, the Northland also is home to at least one lighted Christmas parade and the Snake Saturday parade in North Kansas City in March. In the summer, various Fourth of July processionals take place. Each one is an eclectic display of community spirit.
I’ve been a spectator and a participant in various parades. It’s a tough call to say which is more enjoyable. It’s fun to load up on the back of a trailer and wave at the crowd while sitting on hay bales with your own child and a gaggle of other elementary school kids. There’s also a certain satisfaction in camping out along the parade route, waiting for the moment when you can shout and wave at your nephew or a neighbor kid as they advance with a club or team they belong to.
Parades are a lot of work too. There are lots of preparations to be done in advance — putting together a float to fit the theme, coordinating outfits for everyone in your entry, aligning schedules — and the exercise parade entrants get on the day of the big event is significant. You try waving with a big smile for more than an hour straight. Your cheeks and elbow won’t feel the same for a while.
Parade organizers deserve special praise for the work they do collecting entry forms and fees, reining in the chaos of the lineup before the parade gets underway and keeping things moving when it’s showtime.
Most parades are a mix of motorized and walking entries. There are convertibles, emergency vehicles, big trucks, tractors and other vehicles rolling through the route with their passengers smiling, waving and maybe handing out candy to eager children along the way. Sometimes there are walkers accompanying these vehicles, passing out treats, brochures or other swag promoting their cause. Also in the mix are the marching bands (whose outfits, depending on the weather, make the rest of us envious of their warmth or thankful that we aren’t sweating it out in a uniform), the scouting groups, dance troupes, martial arts crews and church groups walking and performing — and sidestepping the gifts left along the route by any participating horses.
It’s a lot to coordinate, and it always seems to come together in a perfectly choreographed display. It’s worth it to fit one into your schedule.