Parade route to take new twist
A lengthier parade, more politicians and fewer bands are just a few of the changes to the Maple Leaf Parade this year, but none of those top the list of modifications.
The 49th-annual Maple Leaf Festival parade will have a new route Saturday morning. It will begin at east High Street and head west, as usual, but then turn north on Sixth Street, not the usual Eighth Street. It will finish at the corner of Sixth and Chapel streets.
MLF committee president Donna Curran knows people are skeptical of the route, but she believes they will be surprised.
"Honestly, once people see it, they will be amazed," Curran said. "I think they will really like the idea.
"It's going to be a lot safer, because we won't have to make sure shoppers aren't walking in front of bands and cars," Curran said. "It will let the shoppers be able to shop without the interference of the parade. We're looking forward to it and I think it will work out great."
Sheri Caldwell, Maple Leaf Festival parade chairman, is also anxious for the new route.
"I am very excited to see how it goes," Caldwell said. "I think there will be plenty of green space this year."
The route was changed in April, because the proposed downtown renovation project was supposed to be happening during the festival. In June, the project was postponed for one year.
Despite the change in plans for downtown, the MLF committee didn't alter the route, knowing that the renovations might happen next fall.
"The downtown project was supposed to be in the middle of its renovation," Curran said. "Since we had gone through the county along with the city and got permission, we thought we will go ahead and do a practice run this year, because the city is supposed to be doing the renovation next year."
This is not the only change in the parade's 49-year history, as Curran explains.
"Believe it or not, about 50 years ago, it went the other direction," Curran said. "It started at the old high school and went south on Eighth Street, then east on High Street. So things do change and people forget that it was that way once. Change is sometimes good."
This year's route will not be running between vendors' booths down Sixth Street. Parade watchers will have the grassy area around Baker University's campus to sit and view from.
"It will be a little bit better, because Baker has a bit of an embankment," Curran said. "It will be more like theater seating. That will be kind of nice."
Since the parade will run north on Sixth Street, it will be closed at the stoplight at the corner of Ames and Sixth streets at 10 a.m. The street will be opened after the parade.
The new route is one of the major influences of the parade theme, "Discover New Pathways."
"It is based on the new route," Caldwell said. "People will also discover a new pathway to the booths since Sixth Street will be closed. Hopefully they will also discover new things about Baldwin City and Baker University."
As far as the parade goes, Curran said it should be a bit longer this year, because of the upcoming election in November.
"It is going to be a big parade this year, mainly because it is an election year," Curran said. "We have a lot of politicians. I think it should last about an hour and a half this year."
Caldwell said there are more than 120 entries for the parade, including a few new ones this year. She also said there will be 11 marching bands playing.
Once again, candy is not allowed to be thrown from floats, but it can be handed out from walkers.
The MLF parade begins at 11 a.m. Saturday.
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