No rain on this year’s festival parade
Warm weather and a sunny day helped draw thousands of people to the 50th annual Maple Leaf Festival parade.
After a cold, damp parade a year ago, festival officials welcomed the sun and 70-degree temperatures.
"There was a wonderful turnout this year and I think the weather was a big contributing factor to that," said Sheri Caldwell, parade organizer. "So many people missed last year's parade because of the weather, so they really wanted to see it this year."
Donna Curran, MLF committee chairperson, agreed with Caldwell.
"I thought it went off really well," Curran said. "There were no problems at all. I think the weather helped bring people in, but also it being the 50th year helped bring people back this year."
The 50th edition of the annual parade followed its new route for the second straight year. The new route heads north on Sixth Street, instead of Eighth Street, but still finishes at Chapel Street.
The MLF committee changed the route last year, because of expected downtown construction on High Street. Although the route changed last year, MLF officials weren't sure of its success because it was cold and rainy a year ago.
Caldwell said the new route worked well for the 50th anniversary and she heard many compliments from spectators.
"Everyone had room to sit, spread out and enjoy the parade," Caldwell said. "Overall, the people were very happy this year. I didn't hear any negative comments from anyone."
Thousands of spectators lined High and Sixth streets for the annual parade, which lasted just more than an hour. Around a dozen bands marched and performed in the parade.
Several local groups and organizations, including youth football teams and Vinland Elementary School, drove floats through the festival's parade. Three floats were honored with prizes.
Rainbow Experience Preschool won first prize in the float entries. Second place went to the Clinton Eagles 4-H Club and third place was given to Elmo's Fan Club.
"They spend a lot of time on their float," Caldwell said of REP. "Every year they seem to place very high. They show so much enthusiasm and enjoyment every year. They have fun and do a great job."
The Elmo Fan Club float was a tribute to Elmo the Clown, who entered the MLF parade for the final time. He has been a staple of the parade for 27 years, but has decided to retire from the annual event.
The float featured family members and friends of Danny McMillen, Elmo, who wore Elmo Fan Club t-shirts.
"Of course, we will miss Elmo," Curran said. "It's sad to see him go, because he's been such a big part of the festival and the parade. Kids love him. Everybody loves him."
The parade began with the Baldwin City Police Department leading the way, followed by the Baldwin City Volunteer Fire Department.
When the parade lead made its way to the corner of Sixth and High streets, the national anthem was sung by Theresa Troll, Olathe. That kicked off the parade as it then headed north on Sixth.
More than an hour later, the annual parade ended and thousands of visitors made their way downtown toward the booths for food and crafts.
Caldwell said Elmo will be missed but she hopes next year's parade will be even better than the 2007 edition.
"We are going to miss Elmo next year," Caldwell said. "Hopefully, we will have everyone else back. We're even going to do some new things next year."