Marching to the fair

Tuesday, September 11, 2007
The Oak Ridge High School marching band performed on Broadway in the SEMO District Fair Parade Monday. (Fred Lynch)

See SEMO District Fair Parade

Mark Freed blew a few tentative notes into his tenor saxophone while standing near Capaha Park's flagpole Monday evening. The Scott County High School senior was excited about being in his fourth SEMO District Fair parade.

"We work to show all of Southeast Missouri how good we are," he said. With no football team, Scott County High's band relies on parades.

Joyce Boch held a blue-and-white banner for Oak Ridge High School ("Oldest High School West of the Mississippi") that her son, Connor Boch, 6, would carry with his first-grade classmate, Caroline Abner, also 6.

It would be Connor's first parade. He knew his job.

"We have to walk and follow with the band and watch the banner so it doesn't drop on the ground," he said.

Chanse Pullen, 10, wore a shirt stamped with the slogan "Arrive Alive" for his fourth SEMO fair parade. He held a bag of bubble gum to toss out along the route.

His group told people to "buckle up and not drink and drive," he said.

"It makes you feel better when you see everybody laughing and having a good time," he said.

Meanwhile, Tom Broussard directed Jackson High School's band through a few jazzy bars of the Bar Kays' "Soul Finger" while, just a few yards away, Cape Girardeau Central High School's band blared Western songs: "The Magnificent Seven" theme and Aaron Copeland's "Billy the Kid."

Both provided a backdrop for Cape County's 4-H Wild Horses Rodeo Club. Amelia Palmer, 17, the club's president, said 18 of the 34 members were ready for the club's second SEMO Fair parade. As she spoke, Quentin Sawyer, 11, of Whitewater, expertly tossed his line on the wheeled roping dummy.

Gradually all the dozens of parade entrants took their places and stepped onto Broadway, heading toward Arena Park, to the delight of hundreds of people. Parade chairman Norman Robert Jr., who for 22 years has carefully shuffled parade entries to keep the bands from playing too close together, mused that this is one show that's never been rained out, at least in his experience.

Lisa Long held her 9-month-old daughter, Addison, on her lap and watched son Keegan, 3. His big blue eyes grew wider at the sound of drums and horns, and he scrambled for candy thrown out from floats.

Farther up Broadway, Sam Boles coached his son, Halen, 6, to catch the sweets, too.

Ralph and Martha Maxton stood alertly near their roadside lawn chairs, looking for the Centenary United Methodist Church float, bearing three of their grandchildren. They grinned and waved at one another.

Sheri Jackson grinned at the excitement of the seven children she brought to watch the parade. They danced to the marching music, tried catching candy before it hit the ground and gazed admiringly at passing motorcycles, antique tractors and horses.

Cape Girardeau Police Sgt. Kevin Orr coordinated the 25 officers on parade duty. He expected the appearance of the Budweiser Clydesdale horses to draw more people than usual. Lt. John Davis confirmed it.

"It's a huge crowd," said Davis, a motorcycle officer and 21-year police veteran. "It's one of the largest I've seen in years."

Ronnie Abraham patiently waited to follow the police cars' flashing lights as the parade ended. The public works employee volunteered to drive the street sweeper, as he has every other year for a decade.

pmcnichol@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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