Parade showcases community and kids

An old firetruck from Manhattan Fire Department drives in front of the Court House on Poyntz Avenue during the County Fair parade on July 21, 2016. (Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

Even 100 degree weather couldn’t stop the annual Riley County Fair Parade Thursday evening. Families, kids and organizations gathered early at the Manhattan Town Square parking lot to prepare for the event.

The theme for this year’s parade was Cruising into the County Fair. Eleven 4-H clubs competed for best float. The Cico Shamrocks 4-H club displayed their themed float, a 1950s fair complete with a Ferris wheel.

“We thought of the 50s, like a 1950s fair theme,” club member Susana Vick, 16, of Manhattan said. “So we’re going to have a strong man and a bearded lady walking around and vendor people with the striped shirts.”

Vick said the float took the club a few weeks to assemble, but she was glad to finally show it.

Trenton Kennedy, student body vice president, was also on hand to join in the parade. Kennedy said this was his first time participating.

“Not in this one, but (I’ve been) in lots of other parades,” Kennedy said. “This is my first time in the Riley County Fair Parade.”

The Bonfire 4-H club decorated their float to look like a cruise ship, complete with barrels for smokestacks and some of the members’ favorite fair contests written near the top.

“We came up with different ideas two weeks ago,” club member Rachel Buchanan, 13, of Manhattan said.

Buchanan said a lot of work was put into the float to make it parade ready.

“We worked on it Saturdays and Sundays mostly,” Buchanan said. “So probably about four days.”

With 2016 being an election year, there were plenty of political floats and vehicles to be found as well.

Renee Gassmann, of Manhattan, was a part of the Riley County and Pottawatomie County Democrats’ float. The float was decorated in an array of red, white and blue.

“We’re here to spread our message and boost our candidates,” Gassmann said.

Dan Knupp, chair of the Pottawatomie County Democrats, of Wamego said that the float has been in a lot of parades already.

“It started six years ago,” Knupp said. “We’ll be in other cities too. It’s time in an election year to stand up for our values and rally our Democrats.”

Despite the hot temperatures, Mayor Usha Reddi said she was looking forward to the parade and fair.

“Well, I think it’s one of the great things that we do,” Reddi said. “And regardless how hot it is, people just seem to enjoy all the food that’s out there, the rides, and just seeing our young people being so active.”

Reddi said the annual event is a great time to bring people together and show off the skills of local youth.

“Because it’s done annually, people look forward to it and the floats seem to get better and the weather seems to get hotter,” Reddi said. “4-H does an outstanding job with all the contests they have and the awards. And those are the kind of skills that are going to lead them in the future. So I enjoy that, because sometimes that’s a lost art.”