Floats have glided through the McPherson County All Schools Day parade in an abundance of shapes, colors and sizes.
In many ways, it has become a friendly battle for the most eye-catching entries. However, for the 100th anniversary, event organizers added a new category that encourages participants to recreate a float from a previous year.
“I think it brings a lot of the nostalgia back,” Anne Hassler of the McPherson Convention and Visitor's Bureau said. “There’s some really amazing floats that are worthy of recreating.”
Out of the many floats anticipated to be in the parade, two stepped up to the challenge.
One is the McPherson class of 1963.
The May Fete royalty float that year was red and white, with a series of hearts along the side for a railing and a giant heart in the back. Old photos show royalty from all county schools rode this float, as opposed to more recent years when schools have made their own.
“It was really a beautiful float, and I’m hoping I can copy it enough that it will be just as beautiful,” Gary Casebeer, 1963 graduate and float builder, said.
It seems fitting the class should be a part of this 100th year milestone celebration. When they represented their class in 1963, celebrations surrounded the golden 50-year anniversary of All Schools Day.
Joe Zerger of McPherson, then the May Fete king from McPherson High School, remembers wearing white.
“I thought it was special to be recognized as someone who was reasonably liked,” the co-valedictorian and former football player said. “It always feels good when people, especially your classmates, say you’re good enough to represent your class.”
Zerger and 1963 May Fete queen Millie (Krehbiel) Peterson are expected to return and ride in the float this year, along with several veterans and former cheerleaders.
Both Zerger and Casebeer look forward to reuniting with their peers. The class has been faithful in attending reunions every five years, but more are expected to attend for the 50-year reunion.
“We were all brought up here together, and there’s a certain bond between all of us,” Casebeer said. “Our classmates really enjoy each other. We always have. It will be a big love fest, so hearts (on the float) will be appropriate. We decided to do it this year so we could experience all those things we used to experience.”
Zerger looks forward to catching up with old friends.
“It’s good to see some things have changed, and other things definitely haven't changed,” he said. “It’s a real common thread that even when you’ve gone different ways, you realize you come from the same place and have similar feelings about the good times at McPherson High School. It’s something worth recognizing and something the community should be proud of.”
Page 2 of 2 - The second entry recreating an old float is McPherson Main Street.
Members will use the theme “Big Top” from 1952 as a starting point. This is because every year, the McPherson Main Street float combines the theme of All Schools Day and the theme of an upcoming city event, Shop the Night Away. This year, the theme for Shop the Night Away is “Circus Time.”
The appearance of a circus tent will be made from the structure of a gazebo with red and white fabric on top. Clowns will be doing tricks — possibly including juggling and hula hoops — while popular circus music is played.
“I just love giving back to the community,” Michael Wilde, Wal-Mart general manager and McPherson Main Street promotional committee member, said of building the float. “I enjoy being able to bring excitement to the kids’ eyes.”
Wilde will have a close-up view of those reactions as he wears a costume of a clown to accompany the float. The idea came from a picture he saw from 1965, where clowns appear to be walking on their hands. The suit was especially made for the occasion.
“What's really heartwarming is this is the 100th year celebration, and if we can do something that some of these folks recognize, that’s what’s really cool,” Wilde said. “If you can bring a memory back for the people of McPherson, that’s really exciting.”
The McPherson County All Schools Day parade begins at 10:30 a.m. May 10 on Main Street.
Contact Jenae Pauls at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @PaulsSentinel