Cape's day for holiday spirit

Monday, November 29, 2004

Large floats decked in lights and carefully arranged decorations drew oohs and ahhs. Floats bearing candy and drinks were met with squeals and outstretched arms of eager children.

And a few of the 115 entries in Sunday's annual Parade of Lights were out to raise awareness.

Nine athletes from the Special Olympics and family members participated in the local organization's second year in the parade.

Special Olympian Theresa Hill, 40, of Jackson admired the lights as she walked and handed out candy, while others waved from a small trailor decorated in strands of colored lights.

The decorations were "a hodgepodge of what we had at home," said parent and coordinator Kathy Shepard, 41, of Cape Girardeau. As they rolled down Broadway, Shepard distributed brochures in order to raise awareness about the Special Olympics.

From the sidewalk, Kathy Medlin, 51, of Grassy, Mo., rallied her group of nine to cheer loudly for the Olympians.

"I'm proud of them," she said. She and her husband regularly donate to the Special Olympics, although they do not personally know anyone in Special Olympics.

"We do a lot of stuff like basketball, bowling, softball and soccer," Hill said.

Bowling is the winter sport, and the team is preparing to compete in out-of-state tournaments within a few weeks.

While raising awareness the purpose of some entries, the parade was another way for the Southeast Area Twirlers to practice for upcoming performances, said instructor Kandi Staples.

Twirling and tossing glowing batons down Broadway, about two dozen 4- to 18-year-old girls marched in white sweat suits with black buttons, red or black scarves, glittered black top hats, orange-painted noses and red-painted cheeks.

The twirlers' Frosty the Snowman theme was "really, really, really cute," said Paeton Outman, 5, of Cape Girardeau.

In addition to people, some animals donned outfits to match the parade's theme of "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas."

Dale Lane, 64, of Jackson, dressed two alpacas in blankets and antlers. El Sudabenirus, a cream-colored 4-month-old, lost an antler to a nervous Little Buddy, a black 10-month-old.

"They really have a great disposition," Lane said, which is why he entered them into the parade. He plans to train them to be used for therapy, such as in nursing homes.

The pair initially handled the crowd and noise well, Lane said. However, as the parade wore on, the alpacas wore out, frequently stopping by buckling their knees. Once they encountered the Harley-Davidsons and a siren, Lane had to pull them out of the parade near Lorimier Street.

Despite the alpacas' stubborness, the crowd cheered them with "You can do it!"

The retired greyhounds of the Show-Me Greyhound Adoption Agency were not fazed by sounds nor children continually rushing up to pet them. In fact, both excitement and retirement suit them well.

"They're 45-mile-an-hour couch potatoes," said David Smith, member the adoption agency.

The "extremely well-attended" parade was a success, said parade chairman Kent Zickfield, and factors included warmer weather, a larger parade and more than 10 years of growth. Cape Girardeau police could not estimate the number, saying only that the crowd stretched to both ends of the parade route and covered both sides of the street.

This year's parade marshal was Gary Rust, chairman of Rust Communications.

335-6611 extension 127

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